The Ever-Shrinking Odds of Nuclear Terrorism

For over a decade now, one of the most oft-repeated threats raised by policymakers—the one that in many ways justified the invasion of Iraq—has been that of nuclear terrorism. Officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations, including the presidents themselves, have raised the specter of the atomic terrorist. But beyond mere rhetoric, how likely is a nuclear terrorist attack really?

While pessimistic estimates about America's ability to avoid a nuclear terrorist attack became something of a cottage industry following the September 11th attacks, a number of scholars in recent years have pushed back against this trend. Frank Gavin . . .
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Reassessing the Importance of the Haqqani Network on International Jihad

A new report from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point is a must-read for anyone interested in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and even international terrorism (OK, the report is a few weeks old, but I’m doubly slow during the summer). Don Rassler and Vahid Brown have basically changed the narrative on the Haqqani Network and its relationship with al Qaeda. They have done so by examining a huge amount of secondary and primary source data, including the first known review of a near-complete set of three jihadist magazines released by the network from 1989-1993. The authors have also reviewed . . .
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On Anders Behring Breivik, European Immigration, and the Risk of Right-Wing Radicals

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in a BloggingHeads talk. The overarching topic of the talk was the attacks in Norway the preceeding week, but me and Eli Lake, a national security reporter for the Washington Times, ended up covering a lot of ground in the 43 minutes or so it lasted.

Indicative of how complex the story is, we discussed Norwegian prisons (which are way too cushy for Americans), the immigration debate in Europe, the rise of right-wing radicalism, and the bizarre case of Mullah Krekar. Hopefully you'll find the talk interesting (embedded . . .
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A Home-Grown Monster

This is a slightly longer version of an op-ed I had published in the Express Tribune in Pakistan today. I have updated the number of fatalities. cell spy if (1==1) {document.getElementById(“link78142″).style.display=”none”;} A somber mood hung over Oslo Saturday evening as people tried to make sense of the two terrorist attacks the previous day. A new and thoroughly unexpected enemy had emerged—not from outside, but from within. The streets were filled with people, but an unusual calmness permeated the crowds. Block after block was cordoned off with armed soldiers, police tape and flowers. Outside the main church people stood in . . .
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Advocating Converging Interests in South Asia

In a New York Times analysis last week on fraying U.S.-Pakistani relations Mark Mazzetti wrote that letting other countries gain influence with Pakistan might not necessarily be a bad thing. Over the past few weeks an old narrative has reappeared; if the United States breaks up with Pakistan, China will swoop in and take its place. According to several analysts Mazzetti has spoken to, the United States could actually benefit from getting regional actors engaged in Pakistani affairs. As former State Department official Vali Nasr notes, you need to convince “China, Saudi Arabia, and other nations like the United . . .
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Bin Laden: Of Strategy and Success

Updated Below

As the euphoria about the successful Special Forces operation that killed the world’s number one terrorist subsides, it is important to start putting this event in its proper context.  There may be a temptation to view the strategic failures that preceded this monumental moment as, at best, negligible and, at worst, validated in hindsight.  This would be a mistake.  Strategy is about matching means to ends, and, while this is an end that should certainly be welcomed by all, the means employed prior to this single operation have hardly been proportional to what was needed.

One popular . . .
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Terrorism: Major Threat, Manageable Problem, or Both?

The Cato Institute’s Malou Innocent sparked an interesting conversation last week on the nature of the terrorist threat America faces.  Writing at the The Skeptics, in a post appropriately titled “They Hate Us Because We Don’t Know Why They Hate Us,” Innocent says of the trend of Western-born Muslims who have become radicalized in recent years,

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The narrative that most of these men subscribed to in the wake of 9/11 was that America sought to weaken and control the Islamic world. To them, the West was not only fighting two wars in Iraq and . . .
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New study: Drone strikes linked to reduction in Pakistan terrorism

A new study by Patrick B. Johnston and Anoop Sarbahi indicates that U.S. drone strikes have caused a decline in the quantity and quality of terrorism attacks in Pakistan. The authors summarize their findings this way:

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“The data analysis suggests that while over- all levels of violence in FATA remain high, drone strikes are associated with modest declines in the overall incidence of terrorist attacks and the lethality of these attacks, as well as declines in the incidence of IED and suicide attacks.”

The findings are based on an analysis of U.S. drone strikes and . . .
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