Situation Report Threat Update

authors

The Editors

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Threat Update Situation Report

Authors

The Editors

Latest Edition

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The Critical Threats Project releases a weekly update and assessment on the al Qaeda network.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri called for jihadists to prioritize the fight against the United States and its allies and rejected the ideology of the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) in a 14-minute audio message released on January 5. He reiterated major themes from al Qaeda’s strategic doctrine, including the group’s position as a defender of oppressed Muslim populations. Zawahiri’s address continues a series of statements intended to rebut ISIS and reinforce al Qaeda’s role as the vanguard of the global Salafi-jihadi movement. [Revisit CTP’s primer on competing jihad.]
  2. The Saudi-led coalition is supporting an offensive intended to capture key sites in Yemen’s Taiz governorate and increase military pressure on al Houthi-Saleh forces. Internationally recognized Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government launched “Operation Golden Spear” on January 7 in an effort to drive al Houthi-Saleh forces away from the strategic Bab al Mandeb Strait. The coalition-backed forces likely intend to pressure the al Houthi-Saleh faction militarily in an effort to expedite a politically negotiated settlement. They also seek to secure the Bab al Mandab Strait by removing the al Houthi-Saleh presence from southwestern Yemen. A cessation of hostilities is unlikely to hold while local conflicts remain unresolved, however. [Stay up-to-date on Yemen with the latest Yemen Crisis Situation Report.]
  3. Salafi-jihadi groups, including ISIS and al Qaeda, are taking advantage of heightened civil conflict in Libya to reset conditions and prepare for attacks. Libyan actors, including U.S. partners, are dedicating limited security resources to political objectives at the expense of counterterrorism operations. ISIS and al Qaeda-linked militants broke out of besieged neighborhoods in Benghazi, raising the risk of attacks on military targets and oil infrastructure throughout Libya. ISIS militants are also gathering in western Libya, where the group is preparing for future operations to disrupt the Libyan state. Al Qaeda-linked militants have also signaled preparations for attacks in the near term. [See CTP’s laydown of forces in Libya for background.]