The annual worldwide threat briefings of the intelligence community began with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's briefing to the U.S. Senate, during which he discussed the top threats facing the United States in 2014. In his article, Micah Zenko discusses the one thing that will remain shrouded from the American public—exactly who the United States is at war with.
"The Egyptian government blamed its bitter political rivals, the Muslim Brotherhood, for the Mansoura attack, despite ABM's claim of responsibility…. With significant support for their actions against the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian government may not even care if ABM takes credit. With crowds calling for the Muslim Brotherhood's 'execution' after Friday's attack, to some respect it makes sense politically for the government to blame supporters of fallen Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi, who continue to partake in efforts to delegitimize the new regime. This is why Cairo, which believes it is in an existential battle, declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization shortly after the Mansoura bombing."
"As the power of the central leadership created by Osama bin Laden has declined, the vanguard of violent jihad has been taken up by an array of groups in a dozen countries across Africa and the Middle East, attacking Western interests in Algeria and Libya, training bombers in Yemen, seizing territory in Syria and Iraq, and gunning down shoppers in Kenya."
"The armed Syrian opposition, in all of its disparate glory, has long talked of a revolution after its revolution to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a period when scores would be settled between various anti-Assad groups…. Elements of all of these various fault lines had become frontlines during isolated bouts of rebel infighting over the past year or more, but the decision by so many different groups to take on ISIS at the same time, and in so many locations, was surprising. What was also surprising was how quickly ISIS was initially routed from some areas."
"Written in the frenzied, emotional days after 9/11, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was intended to give President Bush the ability to retaliate against whoever orchestrated the attacks. But more than 12 years later, this sentence remains the primary legal justification for nearly every covert operation around the world. Here's how it came to be, and what it's since come to mean."
This report about the Sept. 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi was released on January 15, 2014. It discusses how the attack could have been prevented and according to the New York Times, it is "the first public examination of a breakdown in communications between the State Department and the C.I.A. during the weeks leading up to the deadly episode at the diplomatic compound." The Accountability Review Board released an unclassified report on the embassy attacks in December 2012.
Asked by George Macharia, from University of Nairobi
Terrorism in the Horn of Africa is a complex problem that requires a "full spectrum" solution. The first step in any counterterrorism campaign is developing an understanding of the terrorists' motivations and goals. In the Horn of Africa, the chief terrorist threat emanates from al-Shabab fighters attempting to violently overthrow the Somali government and impose fundamentalist Islamic law. The group and its affiliates are also attempting to sow unrest in neighboring countries like Kenya.
"Calls for a new framework statute to replace the [2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force] are unnecessary, provocative, and counterproductive; they perpetuate war at a time when we should be seeking to end it."
With its Shiite government struggling for survival and poised for a confrontation with Sunni extremists in Fallujah, Iraq faces a deepening sectarian conflict partly fueled by spillover from Syria, says Jane Arraf.
"The fighting over the past week is a watershed moment for the Syrian uprising. The momentum against extremism can pave the way for the re-emergence of moderate groups that had been pushed to the margins under ISIS's reign of terror. The episode has proved that it is Syria's mainstream rebels who are best fit to face down extremists -- not the Assad regime."
Algerian and Western counterterrorism efforts, along with an African-led peacekeeping force in Mali, have shifted the North African al-Qaeda franchise's criminal and terrorist activities to remote areas of the Sahara and Sahel, explains this Backgrounder.
"There is not a Sunni region in the country now that is not enmeshed in strife.… The conflict in Sunni regions is creating an atmosphere of perpetual crisis that could tip the country into civil war or be used by Maliki as a justification to stay in power after what is expected to be a closely fought election. The more chaos, the greater the chance for al-Qaeda-linked fighters to hide among the population and reap chaos."
Hezbollah's long-standing resistance to Israel gained this Lebanon-based Shiite political party and militant group broad support, but its involvement in Syria's civil war may jeopardize its domestic standing.
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.
Campbell evaluates the implications of the Boko Haram insurgency and recommends that the United States support Nigerian efforts to address the drivers of Boko Haram, such as poverty and corruption, and to foster stronger ties with Nigerian civil society.
Koblentz argues that the United States should work with other nuclear-armed states to manage threats to nuclear stability in the near term and establish processes for multilateral arms control efforts over the longer term.
The authors argue that it is essential to begin working now to expand and establish rules and norms governing armed drones, thereby creating standards of behavior that other countries will be more likely to follow.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2014 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass. Read and download »