April 17, 2024

Great Power Competition In The Twenty-First Century

Rather than a new phenomenon, competition, and hence the possibility of conflict, between states – as well as cooperation – has existed as long as states have interacted. While the particularities of great power competition have ebbed and flowed over the past decades, the twenty-first century has seen a return to “normal” as competition between states has translated into open conflict, such as the war in Ukraine, while interdependence due to globalization,…...


January 29, 2024

Identities Destroyed, Histories Revised: The Targeting of Cultural Heritage and Soft Targets by Illicit Actors

On May 27, 1993, a car bomb blasted through the side of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, killing five and wounding around thirty others, and destroying hundreds of priceless pieces of art in the gallery’s collection. Many contend that the gallery was targeted by the Cosa Nostra, or the Sicilian Mafia, not just in retaliation for crackdowns on the organization, but also due to the gallery’s embodiment of Italian culture and…...


October 30, 2023

Operation Black Lion: Challenges That Lay Ahead of Somalia’s Second Phase of the Offensive

Following a series of clan uprisings against al-Shabaab in the central regions of the country, in August 2022 the federal government of Somalia, working alongside clan militias known collectively as the Macawiisley, launched an offensive against the group. Much of this fighting has been concentrated in the central regions of the country, particularly in the Federal Member States (FMS) of Hirshabelle and Galmudug. Partnered with clan militia and supported by foreign actors,…...


September 14, 2023

Citizens for Leverage: Navigating State Hostage-Taking in a Shifting Geopolitical Landscape

A number of states today are unlawfully detaining foreign nationals within their criminal justice systems for use as foreign policy leverage. Often referred to as “hostage diplomacy,” or state hostage-taking, this form of coercive diplomacy is not new in international politics, but its growing prevalence has raised alarm bells among many states, especially Western nations and their allies. This cruel practice places individual citizens at the center of a complicated calculus where…...


July 06, 2023

TSC Insights: France’s Missed Moments In Mali

Why did France fail in Mali? French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to withdraw his country’s remaining troops from Mali in August 2022 followed a nearly decade-long military mission to combat jihadist insurgents, particularly in the country’s north. France’s failure reflected an inability to define clear and achievable counterterrorism objectives during Operation Barkhane, misaligned public opinion and relations within France and Mali, and indecision among senior policymakers regarding the political status of Sahelian…...


June 25, 2023

Wagner Group: The Evolution Of A Private Army

In an astonishing turn of events starting 23 June 2023, the Wagner Group’s leader Yevgeny Prigozhin declared all-out war on the Russian state, leading a convoy of mercenaries to march straight toward Moscow. The mutiny, which embarrassed Russian President Vladimir Putin and caught the Russian military and security services completely off guard, developed at lightning speed and ended just as quickly, leading to widespread confusion and chaos. After storming through towns and…...


May 08, 2023

TSC Insights: Will Elections Set Turkiye on a New Course?

  Among foreign policy watchers, Türkiye’s upcoming vote for president and parliament could be the most consequential election of 2023. Türkiye’s current leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been president since 2014 and, before that, served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014. In many ways, he has fundamentally reshaped Türkiye’s foreign policy, elevating Ankara on the world stage and cultivating a neo-Ottoman approach to world affairs. If Erdogan wins, foreign policy is…...


February 16, 2023

Form Over Function? Reviewing the UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy

In 2006, UN Member States did something unusual. Despite being unable to agree on a universal definition of terrorism, and having fought over whether terrorism truly had “root causes” or if that rhetoric was a perceived justification for terrorism, they managed to agree upon an overarching “global counterterrorism strategy” (GCTS). The Strategy is based on four pillars outlining measures to prevent and combat terrorism for states and for the wider UN system,…...


December 19, 2022

How Far-Right Terrorists Choose Their Enemies

  The decision to attack two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019 was an odd targeting choice. As part of a manifesto released shortly before the violence erupted, the gunman claimed that he “only really took true inspiration from Knight Justiciar Breivik,” the Norwegian white supremacist who killed 77 people – mostly children and youths – in twin attacks targeting the government and the Norwegian Labour Party eight years earlier.…...


July 28, 2022

Lessons Learned from the 1267 Sanctions Regime against Al-Qaeda and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

To fully understand what impact sanctions could have on violent far-right extremist groups it is essential to have a firm grasp on how sanctions have impacted other terrorist groups, particularly those with a transnational scope, including al-Qaeda, Islamic State, and their respective affiliates, franchise groups, and branches worldwide. These groups were the first to be deemed “threats to international peace and security” and subjected to a global sanctions regime established by the…...


July 28, 2022

Trends in Violent Far-Right Extremism

countries in countering the threat from the far-right terrorism, and build on that with relevant partners; and strengthen international cooperation to counter the narratives of the violent far-right movement. This Issue Brief will examine four key trends in the violent far-right landscape with a focus on how these facilitate ideological, financial, and/or operational aspects of the movement, and whether/how sanctions prove a useful tool in countering or constraining these trends within the…...


July 28, 2022

Comparing Violent Far-Right Terrorist Designations among Five Eyes Countries

This paper seeks to examine the array of terrorist designations undertaken by “Five-Eye” (FVEY) countries (i.e. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States) against violent far-right terrorists, often also referred as racially and ethnically motivated violent extremist (REMVE) actors. While not a focus of the papers, non-FVEY countries, most notably Germany, have also implemented measures to restrict the activities of violent far-right actors. Thus, this paper will evaluate…...


July 28, 2022

Lessons Learned from Listing Violent Far-Right Extremist Groups in Canada

In June 2019, Canada listed two violent far-right extremist groups as terrorist entities: Blood and Honour and Combat 18, the first listings of their kind in Canada. In February 2021, the government listed four more entities: The Base, Atomwaffen Division, Russian Imperial Movement, and the Proud Boys. As part of their rationale for listing, the government included the Proud Boys’ participation and “pivotal role” at the US Capitol.” In June 2021, the…...


April 04, 2022

Foreign Fighters, Volunteers, and Mercenaries: Non-State Actors and Narratives in Ukraine

When Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine was launched to pursue the “de-Nazification” of Ukraine, it evoked a level of “gaslighting”—attempting to make others question their own reality—that has come to define the Kremlin’s approach to geopolitics. Just as Russia bombed hospitals in Aleppo and casually blamed the atrocities on “terrorists,” Moscow now seeks to stoke the flames of transnational far-right extremism and violence in support…...


February 07, 2022

Promoting Democracy and Security in Africa: Don’t Forget Cities

Speaking in Abuja last fall, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken implored African governments to enact reforms in response to their citizens’ demands for better governance. The ongoing crises in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Burkina Faso together with recent allegations of Nigerian police brutality and a growing awareness of the connections between weak or failed governance and terrorism and other political violence across the continent underscore the need for change. Communities across Africa…...


October 04, 2021

A Perfect Storm: Insurrection, Incitement, And The Violent Far-Right Movement

The Capitol Insurrection in the United States on January 6, 2021, sent shockwaves around the world. From London to Canberra, and Ottawa to Auckland, millions watched as a mob of far-right violent extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol seeking to overturn the results of a free and fair presidential election that had already been certified many times as both legitimate and credible. Dozens of Capitol Police officers were injured and attacked with racist…...


September 11, 2021

The Road to 9/11 and the Dangers Ahead

Twenty years ago, in the fall of 2001, having already spent years chasing Osama bin Laden, I found myself near Kabul, standing in one of the al-Qaeda leader’s safehouses—or what remained of it. Intense coalition bombardment had reduced the building to rubble. Together with my fellow investigators, I sifted through the remains, looking for evidence that might lead us to the al-Qaeda leader or his lieutenants. Toward the end of our search,…...


September 10, 2021

Diminished, but not Defeated: The Evolution of al-Qaeda Since September 11, 2001

Over the past twenty years, al-Qaeda has proven to be resilient and adaptive in its efforts to survive the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Twenty years after the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States, perpetrated by al-Qaeda, the organization looks much different than it did at the time. “We are no longer dealing with the same terrorist threat, or even the same al-Qaeda, as we did on September 11,”…...


June 28, 2021

Bringing Terrorists to Justice: Prosecuting ISIL War Crimes and Terrorism

In his final briefing to the United Nations Security Council in May 2021, the Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD), Karim A.A. Khan QC, highlighted their finding of “clear and convincing evidence” that ISIL attacks against the Yazidi community in Sinjar constituted genocide; additional details regarding war crimes and incitement to genocide in connection with mass executions at Tikrit…...


June 17, 2021

Countering Terrorist Financing: Lessons Learned for Tackling Far-Right Terrorism

In a post-9/11 world, the international community has devoted significant attention and resources to countering the financing of terrorist groups. For the most part, over the past twenty years this attention has focused on curbing the financial activities of Salafi- jihadist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS. While the UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee was founded in 1999, its primary focus was the Taliban. It wasn’t until a_er al-Qaeda’s deadly attack on September 11th…...


June 17, 2021

Countering Terrorist Narratives & Strategic Communications: Lessons Learned For Tackling Far-Right Terrorism

In the two decades following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the international community has largely focused on countering the terrorist threat posed by groups like al- Qaeda and later, the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), and their respective affiliates around the world. In addition to efforts to degrade the groups and deny them control over territory and resources, policymakers and practitioners also turned to understanding the strategic communications of such groups…...


June 03, 2021

Terrorism and Counterterrorism in Southeast Asia: Emerging Trends and Dynamics

In the last three years, Indonesia and the southern Philippines have seen something new: women carrying out suicide bombings – some with their husbands, some with their children, and some avenging slain husbands – targeting churchgoers, police officers, and soldiers.1 In Malaysia, during the May 2018 general election, a 51-year-old housewife planned to use a car filled with gas canisters and explosives to mow down voters at a polling station, raising the…...


May 25, 2021

The Decade of Defiance & Resistance: Reflections On Arab Revolutionary Uprisings And Responses From 2010 – 2020

The dynamics fostered by the wars and revolutions plaguing many Arab states today represent the most consequential national transformations since World War I, culminating in a period of civilian defiance and resistance that was especially distinct between 2010 – 2020. Despite being pauperized by predatory governments, citizens have challenged their heavily militarized states, emerging to fight battles that have been brewing for decades. Both the protesting citizens in the streets and the…...


April 19, 2021

Quantifying The Q Conspiracy: A Data-Driven Approach to Understanding the Threat Posed by QAnon

A May 2019 intelligence bulletin from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Phoenix office labeled conspiracy theories as a domestic terrorism threat for the first time. The bulletin mentioned QAnon by name specifically and described the broader movement of “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” as deserving particular attention. “Conspiracy theories promoting violence” was designated one of the most serious aspects of the domestic violent extremism threat in a recently released unclassified report by…...


February 18, 2021

A Way Forward With Iran? Options for Crafting a U.S. Strategy

Any discussion of a Biden administration strategy on Iran must begin with an analysis of how previous U.S. administrations have approached the threat posed by Iran. From the very start of the Islamic Republic forty-one years ago, U.S.-Iran relations have been fraught with mistrust, animosity, threats, and occasional active hostilities, but interspersed with periods of negotiation and even tacit cooperation in selected circumstances. Yet, none of the Iran strategies pursued by seven…...


August 12, 2020

The Atomwaffen Division: The Evolution of the White Supremacy Threat

The Atomwaffen Division (AWD) is a dangerous neo-Nazi extremist network with a rapidly growing international footprint. While AWD has roots in the United States and became notorious as a violent entity following its actions during the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, VA in 2017, the group has since established links and affiliates across Europe, including in the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and the Baltic States, making its reach and potential…...


April 23, 2020

Inside The Russian Imperial Movement: Practical Implications of U.S. Sanctions

Over the past several years, high-profile terrorist attacks by violent white supremacist extremists have gained worldwide attention and thrust the movement onto the front page of the news. From the deadly mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand to a violent rampage motivated by xenophobia in El Paso, Texas, the violent white supremacist movement is on the offensive and is gaining momentum. Its legions of followers congregate online to spread propaganda, recruit new…...


March 12, 2020

The Nexus between Human Security and Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism

Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) approaches are unlikely to succeed in the long term without addressing a range of structural factors, specifically political, economic and social drivers including public perceptions of policing; the socio-economic exclusion of particular communities and ethnic, race, religion or gender groups; and the lack of economic opportunities for young people, all of which create the sense of injustice on which violent extremism feeds....


September 27, 2019

White Supremacy Extremism: The Transnational Rise of the Violent White Supremacist Movement

From Pittsburgh to Poway and Charleston to El Paso, white supremacist extremists (WSEs) pose a clear terrorist threat to the United States. And while extremist groups operating on American soil are often labeled or categorized as domestic terrorist organizations, this report will demonstrate that they maintain links to transnational networks of like-minded organizations and individuals, from Australia, Canada, Russia, South Africa, and elsewhere. The danger of terrorism is growing in the United…...


May 14, 2019

Iran’s Playbook: Deconstructing Tehran’s Regional Strategy

This report demonstrates that Iran’s regional strategy is sophisticated, intricate, and nimble. Whereas Iran’s primary method of operations in the region is to support armed factions and pro- Iranian governments financially, politically, and militarily, it is a mistake to reduce Iran’s strategy to “supporting terrorism.” Officials and experts who analyze Iran’s efforts as supporting terrorism alone risk underestimating the degree to which Iran’s overall grand strategy has succeeded, and in fact frustrated…...


January 23, 2019

Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS): The Nucleus of Jihad in South Asia

Seventeen years after the 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda has survived, due in large part to a deliberate strategy focused on gaining the support of the masses by “going local.” Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the youngest affiliate of al-Qaeda, is in many ways the realization of that new strategy. Western counterterrorism circles are slowly recognizing the viability of al-Qaeda’s reach into South Asia, as AQIS appears to be building its capabilities throughout…...


June 04, 2018

The Forgotten War: The Ongoing Disaster in Yemen

The humanitarian and security catastrophe in Yemen may result in a global security crisis, as the country further devolves into sectarianism and violent groups gain even stronger footholds. Both the security and humanitarian crises must be considered together, as the lack of attention to one will almost certainly aggravate and increase the other…...


October 24, 2017

Beyond the Caliphate: Foreign Fighters and the Threat of Returnees

As the so-called Islamic State (IS) loses territorial control of its caliphate, there is little doubt that the group or something similar will survive the worldwide campaign against it. As long as the conditions that allowed the group to exist in the first place remain, IS or something like it will survive. The threat will mutate…...


March 23, 2017

Syria: The Humanitarian-Security Nexus

As the Syrian civil war marks its sixth anniversary in March 2017, the plight of Syrian civilians who have been forced to flee their home country over the past six years continues to worsen. The debate around how to most effectively confront the Syrian refugee crisis revolves around an essential question of international security…...


January 27, 2016

Libya, Extremism and the Consequences of Collapse

In a new, in-depth report, The Soufan Group (TSG) examines the security implications of continued instability in Libya. Four years after the revolution that toppled Muammar Qadhafi, the security situation in Libya remains volatile. The lack of centralized control has allowed criminal and violent extremist groups to flourish, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State....


December 07, 2015

Foreign Fighters

In June 2014, The Soufan Group (TSG) released its initial Foreign Fighters in Syria report, which identified approximately 12,000 foreign fighters from 81 countries. Nearly eighteen months later, despite sustained international effort to contain the Islamic State and stem the flow of militants traveling to Syria, the number of foreign fighters has more than doubled…...


October 08, 2014

The Islamic State

The self-styled Islamic State is an accident of history, emerging from multiple social, political, and economic tensions in the Middle East and beyond. It has challenged the territorial divisions imposed on the region following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire by carving out for itself a large area of territory....


June 02, 2014

Foreign Fighters in Syria

Over 12,000 fighters from at least 81 countries have joined the civil war in Syria, and the numbers continue to grow. Around 2,500 are from Western countries, including most members of the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. There are also several hundred from Russia. But the great majority are from the Arab World. Most are fighting with rebel groups, and increasingly with the most extreme among them…...