Below are the takeaways from the week:
Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri’s 9/11 speech portrayed al Qaeda as the leader of a unified Salafi-jihadi movement and identified the United States as the primary enemy. Zawahiri’s speech is part of al Qaeda’s ongoing effort to recapture the leadership of the Salafi-jihadi movement as ISIS loses its territorial caliphate.
See “Understanding ISIS and al Qaeda,” the new mini-site featuring the work of Dr. Mary Habeck.
Iran’s demonstrated willingness to conduct missile strikes against anti-Iranian regime militants in northern Iraq may lead to future extraterritorial attacks, potentially in Pakistan. The IRGC Aerospace Force launched a missile strike killing at least 11 Kurdish militants in Iraqi Kurdistan on September 8. Anti-regime insurgents have increased their attacks against Iranian forces in recent months, both in northwestern and southeastern Iran.
Revisit the Critical Threats Project’s “Iran’s Kurdish Insurgency” for more information on Kurdish militancy in Iran.
Somalia’s five federal member states suspended all ties with the Somali Federal Government in a bid to extract political and economic patronage, weakening the primary U.S. counterterrorism partner in Somalia. Regional states may suspend military cooperation with federal forces and restrict their movements, setting conditions for al Shabaab to recapture territory in central and southern Somalia.
Read Emily Estelle’s prepared testimony for today’s hearing on developments in Ethiopia: “Ethiopia’s Strategic Importance.”
The Saudi-led coalition resumed an offensive on al Hudaydah port after UN efforts to restart peace talks collapsed, risking an escalation of the Yemeni civil war and a worsened humanitarian crisis. The Saudi-led coalition and internationally recognized Yemeni government will not participate in the peace process in earnest until they weaken the al Houthi movement militarily and pressure it to give up preconditions.
Read Katherine Zimmerman’s The Assault on al Hudaydah: Surfacing America’s Partnership Problems.
For a deeper dive into what's happening relating to the al Qaeda network and Iran, see our regional and country-by-country updates below.
Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri’s 9/11 speech portrayed al Qaeda as the leader of a unified Salafi-jihadi movement that is fighting a global war. Zawahiri identified the primary enemy as the United States, which he claimed is responsible for the repression of Muslims. Zawahiri also presented al Qaeda as a moderate alternative to ISIS, continuing an effort to recapture the leadership of the Salafi-jihadi movement as ISIS loses its territorial caliphate.
HORN OF AFRICA
Somalia’s five federal member states suspended ties with the Somali Federal Government over disputes on economic and political relations with the central government. The move limits the ability of U.S.-backed Somali security forces to operate against al Shabaab outside of the Mogadishu area. Federal member states will likely cease conducting joint operations with the Somali National Army and may refuse to allow troops movement through the region as leverage against the federal government.
Emirati-backed Yemeni forces resumed offensive operations to capture al Hudaydah port from the al Houthi movement. The operation was paused after the al Houthis agreed to UN-led consultations in early September, which collapsed. UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths is attempting to salvage the peace process but the coalition and Yemeni government are unlikely to participate in talks in earnest unless they weaken the al Houthi movement militarily.
ISIS is attacking the headquarters of key Libyan institutions as part of a campaign to preserve the governance and security vacuum in Libya. ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack on the headquarters of the Libyan National Oil Corporation in Tripoli, threatening Libya’s main source of income. ISIS conducted a similar attack on the Libyan High National Election Commission in May 2018.
ISIS increased the output of propaganda promoting Kashmir as front for jihad. ISIS emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi highlighted Kashmir in his August 22 Eid al Adha speech. Kashmir-based ISIS groups echoed his statement in multiple propaganda pieces and emphasized the ease of traveling to Kashmir compared to Syria and Afghanistan. ISIS maintains a minimal footprint in Kashmir but is attempting to coopt Islamist separatist movements in the region.
Iran demonstrated its willingness to take military action against anti-Iranian regime insurgents in northern Iraq. The IRGC launched a missile strike against a Kurdish militant base in Iraqi Kurdistan on September 8. The strike follows an increase in insurgent attacks against Iranian forces in northwestern and southeastern Iran in recent months. Iran may take additional action against militants in neighboring countries such as Iraq and Pakistan.