The U.S. counterterrorism (CT) community continues to prioritize national security by identifying and countering global terrorist threats. Although the threat from foreign terrorist groups orchestrating mass-casualty attacks in the U.S. has lessened since 9/11, thanks to a robust CT system, there remain significant challenges. This article details the evolving landscape of international terrorism, focusing on four key challenges, and underscores the need for a nimble CT framework to stay ahead of these threats.
- Regional Expansion Amid Degraded External Threats: The U.S. has successfully suppressed major threats from ISIS and al-Qa`ida, but concerns arise from the increased activities of groups like ISIS-Khorasan in Afghanistan and the expansion of terrorist networks in Africa
- State-Sponsored Terrorism: Rising global strategic competition might revive state support for terrorism. The recent aggressive actions of the Iranian government, including plotting inside the U.S., exemplify this trend.
- Lone Actor Threats: Violent extremists, often lone actors, pose a significant threat within the U.S. due to the individualized radicalization process. Both internationally influenced extremists and racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) have carried out major attacks on U.S. soil.
- Terrorist Innovation with Emerging Technologies: Terrorist groups are leveraging commercially available technologies, including drones and 3D printing, for communication, recruitment, and attack planning. The potential for utilizing virtual reality and artificial intelligence for training and propaganda poses additional challenges.
- CT Architecture and Collaborative Efforts: Over two decades, the U.S. has built a multi-layered CT system with law enforcement, military, and partnerships. This has effectively suppressed large-scale attacks, but the evolving threats necessitate continual adaptation and cooperation on both domestic and international fronts.