The Critical Threats Project releases a weekly update and assessment on the al Qaeda network.
- The Trump administration is weighing increased involvement in Libya that may tip the scale further in favor of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the dominant militia force in eastern Libya. The administration might be considering a diplomatic presence of an intelligence coordination center in Benghazi. The reported policy discussion emerged after Haftar declared victory in Benghazi on July 5, ending a three-year effort to clear the city of Islamist militias and Salafi-jihadi groups. Haftar, backed by Egypt and the UAE, seeks to parlay his growing power into a leading role in a national political settlement. The U.S. must tread carefully when engaging with Haftar, whose quest to stabilize eastern Libya and eradicate political Islam has harmed democratic institutions and played in to extremist narratives. [Read Emily Estelle’s “Warning Update: Feared return of the Qaddafi regime will galvanize Salafi-jihadi groups in Libya.”]
- Al Shabaab escalated attacks in northeastern Kenya in an attempt to turn Kenyan voters against the military intervention in Somalia before general elections in August. Militants beheaded nine civilians in Lamu County on the northern Kenyan coast July 9, four days after nearly 200 al Shabaab militants clashed with police forces in the same region. Kenyan warplanes conducted strikes targeting al Shabaab strongholds in the Boni Forest along the Somali border in response to the attacks. [Read “US Counterterrorism Objectives in Somalia: Is Mission Failure Likely?”]
- The fracturing of the Yemeni state undermines U.S. policy in Yemen, which relies on the internationally recognized government led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Hadi’s already weak administration is losing control of southern Yemen. The Transitional Political Council of the South, a rival body that seeks to form an independent governing entity for southern Yemen, announced the formation of a governmental structure on July 9. [Read “Warning Update: Fracturing of the Yemeni State” for additional context.]