The contours of America’s counterterrorism strategy against al Qaeda and the Islamic State have remained remarkably consistent over the past two decades, broadly focused on degrading al Qaeda’s and the Islamic State’s external attack capabilities and global networks, disrupting their operations through military operations or enhanced law enforcement and border security, and denying them sanctuaries.
Increasingly, drone strikes address threats from terrorism by supplementing local partnerships and other counterterrorism activities because their long-range strike precision complements and enables a low-footprint, partner-based approach. The perceived success of this model in reducing the transnational terrorism threat has since resulted in further cutbacks to resources and the adoption of an “over-the-horizon” posture.
Katherine Zimmerman argues that while this strategy appears to be checking the right boxes in terms of effectiveness and sustainability, there is an inherent risk in managing, and not solving, the Salafi-Jihadi terrorism threat.
Multiple challenges to the partner-based approach are discussed in Zimmerman’s article, ending with suggestions to adopt new strategies such as investments in foreign aid programs, while also reducing drones to a supporting, rather than lead, role in this fight.
A central tool in the United States’ counterterrorism strategy over the past two decades has been the use of remotely piloted aircraft, more commonly known as drones, to target members of Al Qaeda and other associated terrorist groups. These drone strikes have been largely concentrated in northwest Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, although the exact number of strikes is difficult to determine, partly because the US is not always transparent about when it conducts a strike.
The use of drones for targeted killing has initiated intense debate over whether such strikes are lawful or ethical, whether they are effective in combatting terrorism, and to what extent they harm civilians. In this article, the author reviews both quantitative and qualitative evidence of the effects of US drone strikes on both terrorists and civilians, coming to several conclusions.
Mitt Regan ultimately finds that strikes against Al Qaeda leaders have neither caused the group to decline nor reduced the number of attacks it conducts worldwide. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that, while strikes reduced the number of terrorist attacks in areas where they occurred for up to four weeks, this effect does not last longer unless additional, ongoing strikes are carried out.
Regarding civilians, the evidence shows that the US has struggled to meet its own standard of near certainty of no civilian casualties, and generally drone strikes cause resentment towards the US in areas where they occur, although it does not support the claim that such resentment results in increased numbers of recruits to terrorist groups.
Looting and pillaging have been an aspect of warfare for millennia. Art theft, antiquities looting, and artifact trafficking is both profitable and easy, especially in countries where much of the ancient world is not yet excavated. This trade has served to fund many syndicates around the world over the last century, most recently becoming the main monetary support for terrorism.
In this note, Victoria Maatta argues that the US should help to combat the artifacts trade stemming from ISIL activities. She surveys the current caselaw and finds the standards that art and antiquities purchasers must abide by are unclear and current legal treatment of these issues ultimately does nothing to thwart illicit art trafficking.
Instead, Maatta proposes a more focused legal approach to the issue that prioritizes due diligence on the part of the purchaser and has the primary goal of ensuring the protection and proper ownership of the antiquities.