20 Jul, 2017
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US State Department Releases Country Reports on Terrorism 2016
The US State Department released its annual report, Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, which provides the Department of State’s annual Congressionally-mandated assessment of trends and events in international terrorism that transpired from January 1 to December 31, 2016. The report provides policy-related assessments, country-by-country breakdowns of foreign government counterterrorism cooperation; and contains information on state sponsors of terrorism, terrorist safe havens, foreign terrorist organizations, and the global challenge of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear terrorism.
BUREAU OF COUNTER TERRORISM AND COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM
Although al-Qa’ida (AQ) in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been seriously degraded, remnants of AQ’s global leadership, as well as its regional affiliate al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), continued to operate from remote locations in the region that the group has historically exploited for safe haven. International, Afghan, and Pakistani forces continued to contest AQ’s presence in the region, and Pakistan’s continued military offensive in North Waziristan further degraded the group’s freedom to operate. Pressure on AQ’s traditional safe havens has constrained the leadership’s ability to communicate effectively with affiliate groups outside of South Asia.
Today’s Current Affairs
Afghanistan, in particular, continued to experience aggressive and coordinated attacks by the Afghan Taliban, including the affiliated Haqqani Network (HQN) and other insurgent and terrorist groups. A number of these attacks were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan. Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) retained full responsibility for security in Afghanistan, and prevented the Taliban from capturing a provincial capital in 2016, although it suffered an unprecedented number of casualties in an intense fighting season. The ANDSF and Coalition Forces, in partnership, took aggressive action against terrorist elements across Afghanistan. A peace agreement between Hizb-e Islami Gulbuddin and the Afghan government in September was the first signed by an insurgent group since the 2001 fall of the Taliban.
While terrorist-related violence in Pakistan declined for the second straight year in 2016, the country continued to suffer significant terrorist attacks, particularly against vulnerable civilian and government targets. The Pakistani military and security forces undertook operations against groups that conducted attacks within Pakistan such as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan. Pakistan did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban or HQN, or substantially limit their ability to threaten U.S. interests in Afghanistan, although Pakistan supported efforts to bring both groups into an Afghan-led peace process. Pakistan did not take sufficient action against other externally focused groups, such as Lashkar e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in 2016, which continued to operate, train, organize, and fundraise in Pakistan.
ISIS’s formal branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Islamic State’s Khorasan Province, remained active in 2016, although counterterrorism pressure from Afghan and U.S. Forces removed hundreds of fighters from the battlefield and restricted the group’s ability to control territory. Nevertheless, the group was able to conduct a number of high-profile, mass-casualty attacks in Kabul against sectarian and Afghan government targets. The group also claimed a number of mass-casualty attacks in Pakistan’s settled areas, likely conducted in collaboration with anti-Shia terrorist groups like Lashkar i Jhangvi.
India continued to experience attacks, including by Maoist insurgents and Pakistan-based terrorists. Indian authorities continued to blame Pakistan for cross-border attacks in Jammu and Kashmir. In January, India experienced a terrorist attack against an Indian military facility in Pathankot, Punjab, which was blamed by authorities on JeM. Over the course of 2016, the Government of India sought to deepen counterterrorism cooperation and information sharing with the United States. The Indian government continued to closely monitor the domestic threat from transnational terrorist groups like ISIS and AQIS, which made threats against India in their terrorist propaganda. A number of individuals were arrested for ISIS-affiliated recruitment and attack plotting within India.
Bangladesh experienced a significant increase in terrorist activity in 2016. Transnational groups such as ISIS and AQIS claimed several attacks targeting foreigners, religious minorities, police, secular bloggers, and publishers. Most notably, ISIS claimed responsibility for a July 1 attack on a restaurant in Dhaka’s diplomatic enclave, which resulted in 22 deaths. The Government of Bangladesh primarily attributed these attacks to domestic terrorists and political opposition.
People from Central Asia have travelled to Iraq or Syria to fight with militant and terrorist groups, including ISIS. Central Asians, like western Europeans, have been drawn to the fighting in Iraq and Syria for myriad reasons and fight on several sides. Central Asian leaders remained concerned about their involvement, but there was little evidence of Central Asian fighters returning home in significant numbers intent on attacking. Foreign terrorist fighters from Central Asian nations were suspected of committing attacks in third countries, however, including the June attack at the Istanbul, Turkey airport.
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