Jean-Charles LARSONNEUR (France)
11 January 2023
While Russia’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy, notably the unprovoked full invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, is the principal threat to Allied peace and security today, terrorism remains the main asymmetrical threat. Terrorism has been a key challenge for Allies since the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001.
This report demonstrates that terrorism is an evolving and complex challenge. The threat facing Allies in 2001 principally came from al-Qaeda as a centrally organised, isolated, and ideologically driven network in Afghanistan. Twenty years later, the threat is more dispersed geographically along the arc of instability from Afghanistan through to the West African coast. The most prominent groups today, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and their growing network of global affiliates, continue to have expansive goals and networks, and, given the freedom to do so, would seek to plan and execute attacks against Allied populations.
Today, the Sahel appears to be the epicentre of the global terrorism challenge. However, al-Qaeda’s and ISIS’s recent resurfacing across the Middle East and North Africa in terms of scale and scope of attacks suggests they (and their affiliates) are far from being eradicated as a threat. In addition, the resurgence of al-Qaeda and other groups in the Taliban-Haqqani network-controlled Afghanistan is raising concerns that the country has the potential to return to its pre-9/11 days as an unmatched global terrorist group safe haven.
This report reviews the current global terrorism challenge as it has evolved in recent years and the persistent threat it poses to Allied populations and interests. It also reviews NATO’s existing policies, initiatives, missions and operations, as well as partner outreach which Allies combine to degrade, disrupt, and deny terrorist groups’ organisational and operating capacities. The conclusion outlines a series of recommendations for Allied parliamentarians.