The Critical Threats Project releases a weekly update and assessment on the al Qaeda network.
- Al Qaeda’s network in Libya remains a threat to U.S. national security despite the announced dissolution of Ansar al Sharia, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization that participated in the September 2012 attack on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi. Ansar al Sharia cited leadership attrition and called on Libyan Muslims to fight together to establish a polity governed by shari’a law in its May 27 statement. The al Qaeda human network in Libya was already diffuse and the disbandment of Ansar al Sharia is unlikely to affect al Qaeda’s ability to shape the civil war, operate training camps, benefit from smuggling and trafficking, and recruit in Libya. [Read “Fighting Forces in Libya: May 2017” for recent activity and “Backgrounder: Fighting Forces in Libya” for context.]
- The resumption of talks to broker a ceasefire in Yemen does not indicate a political breakthrough. Oman hosted representatives from President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government and the al Houthi-Saleh faction in an attempt to end hostilities. Both parties continue to insist on incompatible preconditions for a ceasefire, and divisions within each bloc will likely scuttle a deal. The UN Special Envoy to Yemen acknowledged that he is not close to securing a ceasefire. [Read a warning on state fragmentation in Yemen and policy recommendations for U.S. re-engagement.]
- Salafi-jihadi organizations seek to attack passenger airliners by concealing bombs in portable electronic devices. The U.S. is considering the expansion of a “laptop ban” to include inbound flights from Europe. The U.S. prohibited laptops and similar-sized electronics from the cabins of flights originating from ten airports in Muslim-majority countries in March 2017. Al Qaeda affiliates possess advanced explosive capabilities and have transferred expertise within the network. ISIS seeks to develop a similar capability. [Read Katherine Zimmerman’s take on the state of S. counterterrorism strategy after the Manchester bombing.]