Fri, 3 October 2014
With the recent decision by the Obama administration to begin launching airstrikes against Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria, questions have arisen about the nature of the terrorist threat groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al Qaeda pose to the United States and whether our current strategies to eradicate terrorism are actually working. Many are concerned that just as we thought we were finally coming to the end of over a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are being sucked into yet another long, bloody conflict in a region where our success rate has been anything but stellar, and all to address what amounts to a fairly minor threat. Others have argued that the threat of ISIS is an existential one for the United States and its allies and interests in the region and therefore believe that nothing short of a full military intervention coupled with long-term state-building projects in Iraq and Syria will suffice to eliminate the threat of ISIS once and for all.
Recent reports about the so-called Khorasan Group, a mysterious faction of Al Qaeda operatives with links to the core organization in Pakistan and its affiliate in Yemen that is supposedly recruiting Westerners in Syria to carry out attacks against the United States and other Western countries have sharpened the debate—is Al Qaeda really “on the run,” as we’ve so often been told? Do they still pose a threat to the U.S. homeland? And if so, what exactly have we been doing the past 13 years? Where did all that money and manpower we threw at counterterrorism after 9/11 go? Will the war on terrorism ever really be won?
For this week’s Lawfare Podcast, I sat down with preeminent terrorism scholar Audrey Kurth Cronin to dig into these issues a little more deeply. Audrey recently wrote a fantastic piece titled “Is this How to Win the War on Terrorism?” for the Foreign Policy Essay here at Lawfare, in which she discussed the Obama administration’s use of drones as its primary counterterrorism tactic, the bloated counterterrorism bureaucracy that has emerged since 9/11, and how best to combat terrorist threats from groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda.