Global Security Look Ahead: A Collection of Essays

The world is an increasingly messy place. Diplomatic relations between the major global powers – the United States, China, Russia, and the Europeans – are strained. Continued American leadership in military and economic affairs is uncertain: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) wobbles as a result. Armed brinkmanship in the Pacific, competition in the Arctic, and even open conflict in Europe remain distinct possibilities. Meanwhile, militant organizations control large swaths of territory in parts of North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Mass-casualty terrorist attacks in the West have become a common occurrence. And cyber threats, from the exfiltration of sensitive data to attacks on critical infrastructure, continue to proliferate.

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Defeating ISIS is Just the Beginning

On September 10, 2014, US President Barack Obama unveiled his long-awaited strategy for countering the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh. “Our objective is clear,” Obama noted, “We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.” Two years later, following the horrifying attacks in Nice, France, in which an aspiring ISIS militant rammed a cargo truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 people and injuring hundreds more, President Obama reiterated: “We will not be deterred. We will not relent… [W]e are going to destroy this vile terrorist organization.”

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MLI Global Security Look Ahead Project

The world is an increasingly messy place. Diplomatic relations between the major global powers – the United States, China, Russia, and the Europeans – are strained. Continued American leadership in military and economic affairs is uncertain: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) wobbles as a result. Armed brinkmanship in the Pacific, competition in the Arctic, and even open conflict in Europe remain distinct possibilities. Meanwhile, militant organizations control large swaths of territory in parts of North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Mass-casualty terrorist attacks in the West have become a common occurrence. And cyber threats, from the exfiltration of sensitive data to attacks on critical infrastructure, continue to proliferate.

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The Promises and Pitfalls of Counterterrorism

This year Canadians will mark a solemn anniversary: the centennial of World War One. The prelude to the world’s most brutal war began on June 28, 1914 with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Tens of millions of souls perished in the ensuing years. But like all traditional wars, WWI also eventually ended. Canadians solemnly mark that date every single year.

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Halting al Qaeda’s African Rebound

Little doubt exists that al Qaeda currently faces two unprecedented challenges: the “Arab Spring” sweeping the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Al Qaeda’s violent narrative has come under immense pressure after the toppling of Arab regimes by largely secular and peaceful protest movements, while the removal of bin Laden has robbed the organization of a charismatic and unifying figure. Yet for al Qaeda’s most prominent African affiliates — al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Somalia’s al Shabaab — the political upheaval sweeping the MENA region creates opportunities for growth. And while the elimination of al Qaeda’s founding leader will certainly hurt, his exit is unlikely to greatly influence AQIM’s or al Shabaab’s aspirations, tactics, or strategies. This article offers a critical overview of the costs and opportunities to al Qaeda’s African allies as a result of the Arab Spring and bin Laden’s death. Contrary to popular belief, al Qaeda’s affiliates may be on the mend and on the march. If Canada wants to stall al Qaeda’s regional rebound, it will have to work with its friends and allies to build on recent counterterrorism successes and keep al Qaeda on the run. And by consolidating democratic gains in the MENA region, Canadians will help ensure that al Qaeda’s regional appeal remains negligible.

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Preventing Prison Radicalization in Canada: More needs to be done

In a few short weeks, Canadians should expect to finally close the book on the Toronto 18.

The last member of the terrorist cell behind Canada’s most notorious homegrown conspiracy, Shareef Abdelhaleem, is expected to receive his prison sentence in March 2011. Found guilty of terrorism offenses in January 2010, Abdelhaleem faces the prospect of a life sentence. He’ll join ten other members of the Toronto 18 and two other convicted homegrown Islamist terrorists, Momin Khawaja and Said Namouh (both serving life sentences) convicted of participating in terrorism.

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From Rehabilitation to Recruitment: Islamist Prison Radicalization in Canada

Canada has a problem with home-grown radicalism. It comes from many sources and when it crosses the line from advocacy to violence, law enforcement steps in. People are arrested, tried and, if convicted, sent to jail. Unfortunately what looks like a solution to most people can be the start of another problem. Prisons are a fertile recruiting ground for radicals and terrorists in many other countries. If we do not want to jail one terrorist only to release three, we need to take preemptive action based on the experiences of our friends and allies.

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Enemies Within

The nature of global terrorism has evolved. The arrest of a number of Canadians in Toronto in 2006 for allegedly planning to kill fellow citizens is but one case of a growing trend of homegrown terrorism. (As this paper goes to publication, the “Toronto 18” case continues to unfold. On September 25, 2008, an unnamed member of the group who was still a youth at the time of the arrests was found guilty under Canada’s anti-terrorism law.)

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