Global Terrorism This Week (GTTW) – August 15-21, 2022

Terrorism around the world for the week of August 15-21: another week dominated by Islamist terrorists

Weekly thoughts: what role for the military in counter terrorism?

We have become all too used to the phrase ‘war on terrorism’ for more than two decades now, ever since then President George W. Bush said ‘our nation is at war’ in the aftermath of 9/11. And, since that time, we have seen not just the coalition invasion of Afghanistan – which ended a year ago with the withdrawal of the last US forces and a return to power by the same Taliban terrorists the invasion was supposed to neutralise – but others in Iraq, Yemen (by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – UAE), and several places in Africa. As if terrorism had a ‘military’ solution (I suppose if we frame this as a ‘war’ whom else can we see as the main actors?).

Now, in addition to the US departure from Afghanistan we see the decision by France to leave Mali eight years after the initiation of Operation Barkhane, a 4,500 man anti-jihadi effort that was aimed not only on Mali but also on Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad. The mission had its successes and failures but what needs to be the main takeaway is that none of these Sahel states were even close to dealing with Al Qaeda- (AQ) and Islamic State- (ISIS) linked terrorists on their own.

For its part, Mali has now decided to rely on the shady Russian Wagner Group for its anti-terrorism strategy in the wake of France’s exit, hardly a good strategy (not to mention a dangerous one: see section on Mali below). And Bamako seems to have elected to be vindictive about the French period, accusing – unrealistically – France of sending weapons to the jihadis.

What to make of all this? In truth, there is a role for the world’s militaries in counter terrorism but we would be naive to think that they are the only ones who can do this task – one I elaborate on extensively in my fourth book An End to the War on Terrorism. Yet, military’s make mistakes – the death of four schoolgirls in northeast Syria this week by a Turkish drone is a good example (Turkey claims it was targeting ‘terrorists’, i.e. the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) – and these are not only tragic in themselves but help raise support for terrorist groups.

If we are to continue to see a military option it is best that rather than take the form of an invasion/occupation it be ‘surgical’ in nature: the killing of AQ leader Ayman al Zawahiri in Kabul a few weeks back is a great option. Otherwise, we will be at ‘war with terrorism’ forever.

This week by the numbers

  • Countries which experienced actual attacks: 6
  • Victims (dead/wounded): 59/168
  • Ideology of terrorists: majority Islamist extremist (jihadis)
  • Single greatest attack: Al Shabaab siege of Mogadishu hotel (30 dead, 117 wounded)
















United Kingdom

  • A 15-year-old boy will go on trial accused of plotting a terror attack after allegedly researching the Isle of Wight Festival as a potential target. The boy had developed an interest in ISIS and was allegedly planning to attack someone he thought had insulted Islam.

United States

  • A Pakistani doctor and former Mayo Clinic research coordinator pleaded guilty to terrorism two years after his arrest for telling paid FBI informants that he pledged his allegiance to ISIS and wanted to carry out lone wolf attacks in the US. Muhammad Masood was in the US on a work visa and made several statements to paid informants — whom he believed were members of ISIS — pledging his allegiance to the group and its leader and expressing his desire to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS and a desire to carry out lone wolf attacks.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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