The Critical Threats Project releases a weekly update and assessment on the al Qaeda network.
- The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) may exploit rising instability in Morocco to conduct more frequent attacks in Europe and North Africa. Moroccan security forces, which have prevented ISIS attacks in the country, are struggling to manage a growing protest movement. This civil unrest, paired with the shifting of migrant flows from Libya toward Morocco, will strain the country’s security resources and reduce pressure on ISIS networks there. Instability in Morocco also increases the risk of attacks in Europe, where Moroccan militants participated in recent ISIS attacks in Spain and a suspected ISIS-linked stabbing in Finland. [Read a recent warning on the implications of instability in Morocco.]
- The partnership between the al Houthi movement and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh is fracturing. Senior al Houthi leaders accused Saleh of conducting treasonous negotiations with the Gulf States. Saleh denied the accusations and blamed the al Houthis for governance failures in Sana’a. Tensions within the al Houthi-Saleh bloc provide an opportunity for the U.S. to advance a political settlement to the Yemeni conflict. The al Houthi movement lacks the capability to continue the civil war without Saleh’s forces. An elite-brokered peace deal that does not address the grievances driving the war will not end Yemen’s instability, however. [Read Katherine Zimmerman’s recommendations for U.S. engagement in Yemen.]
- U.S. President Donald Trump criticized Pakistan for harboring terrorist groups during a speech announcing a new U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan on August 21. A Pakistani army spokesman dismissed the criticism and stated that Pakistan has taken action against militant groups in its terrain. Pakistan will likely intensify counter-militancy operations near the Afghan border to safeguard its relationship with the U.S. Pakistan may also increase support for militant groups in the disputed Kashmir territory to counteract U.S. engagement with India. [Read Frederick W. Kagan’s “Trump outlines the foundation of a changed approach in Afghanistan.”]