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Uri Friedman (The Atlantic) — Tuesday’s State of the Union address was the first since 2001 to not mention al-Qaeda. It opened with the promise of a post-post-9/11 era. “We are 15 years into this new century,” President Obamaobserved. “Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars.”
“But tonight,” he added, “we turn the page.”
It was an odd way to preface a request for Congress to bless a new U.S. military offensive against a terrorist group in the Middle East. What followed was, as my colleague Peter Beinart described it, possibly ”the briefest and most half-hearted call to war in American history.” It’s a war (or “targeted operations,” or a “comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy,” depending on your preferred terminology) that is now in its 167th day, even as almost no one—not the president, not Congress, not many Americans—seems to have much appetite to fight it.
Ali Wyne (The American Interest) — President Obama observed this June that “if you had to choose any moment to be born in human history…you’d choose this time. The world is less violent than it has ever been.”
While his proposition may seem incongruous with the present cavalcade of crises across Eurasia, the evidence suggests that the world is indeed becoming more secure. With Thanksgiving just behind us and the new year fast approaching, we should all give thanks.
Consider nuclear dangers. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, which the late historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. famously called “the most dangerous moment in human history,” John F. Kennedy believed there was at least a one-in-three chance of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union; 20 years later, a top adviser to Ronald Reagan, Richard Pipes, put that figure at two-in-five.
Clive Jones (Reuters) — According to Yemeni intelligence, both Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi, the two brothers who carried out a devastating attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo last Wednesday, were trained in camps run by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). This has once more drawn attention to the militant organization’s territorial base: Yemen.
Both brothers are believed to have visited Yemen in 2011 and stayed for a few weeks. Yemeni officials say the brothers met Anwar al-Awlaki there, the radical U.S. preacher and suspected al Qaeda spokesperson, who was killed that year in a U.S. drone strike.
Officials also confirmed that both Kouachi brothers received weapons training in an AQAP training camp in the desert of Marib, located in the south of Yemen.
Frederic Grare (Tony Blair Faith Foundation) — The murder of some 145 people (including 132 children) in a Peshawar school on 16 December 2014 was a brutal reminder of the challenges facing the ongoing counter-terrorist operations on the Afghan-Pakistani border. But it also highlights the persistent ambivalence of the security establishment and some parts of Pakistani society toward terrorism.
In the aftermath of the massacre, the Pakistani army escalated its air strikes. The political class was unanimous in their condemnation of the attack and the Prime Minister declared that Pakistan would no longer differentiate between "good and bad Taliban".
The military's determination to avenge the killing of the Peshawar students—most of whom had parents within the Pakistani armed forces—may temporarily convey the impression that support for terrorism is no longer acceptable, but questions persist about the objectives of the current offensive beyond eliminating those militants unwilling to support military foreign policy objectives and who instead target the Pakistani state.The resolve of the Pakistani military to eradicate terrorism remains selective.
Victor Argo (Your Middle East) — Fear mongering keeps leaders in power, in democracies as well as in authoritarianism. They make statements to please Western backers or domestic audiences. They all call what they do “the fight against terrorism.” Nothing could be further from the truth, writes Victor Argo.
Both intelligence agencies and military commanders were riding high on the ISIS wave in 2014. ISIS served as “the reason why” for legislation to be passed or toughened and for military capabilities to be boosted and deployed.
How real is the danger that emanates from ISIS, particularly for someone living in Europe or the United States? And how suitable are the answers that are implemented by governments and multilateral organizations to confront ISIS? I recently attended a counterterrorism seminar organized by NATO and hereafter are my personal conclusions about what I heard.