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Visiting the 9/11 Memorial on Tuesday, the day before the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.CreditCreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

There is something almost magical about New York as summer turns to fall. The changing of the seasons brings a spirit of renewal. People hurry to school and work, propelled by dreams and ambitions. The leaves shift from green to orange. But this beauty is transient. In the evening, when I go on my walks, I look at the two blue lights beaming into the heavens from just south of the old World Trade Center and I try to hold my gaze there. I never last long.

When the Sept. 11 attacks happened, I was an 11-year-old Muslim boy suddenly confused about the world and unsure of my place in it.…  Seguir leyendo »

An image of Jake Campbell above his mother’s name on the south fountain of the 9/11 Memorial in New York.CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

When I was growing up, the only time I noticed that I was different from other kids at school was when their parents were around. One of my earliest memories is my first day of kindergarten: Among a sea of young parents, my grandparents and I stood out. I was too nervous to let go of my grandmother’s hand.

The rest of the time, though, I felt pretty normal. My thoughts revolved around driveway baseball games with the neighbors and making sure I had my homework done in time to play some video games.

But early September always felt different. I could sense a change in the mood in my home.…  Seguir leyendo »

Why We Should Take Back Americans Who Fought for ISIS

What do we do with Westerners who fought on behalf of, or at least traveled to and joined, the Islamic State? Some like Hoda Muthana, who left college in Alabama to join the Islamic State in Syria, have expressed the desire to return to their native country.

As the Islamic State loses its last safe havens in eastern Syria and policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic confront the question of what to do with the Western “foreign fighters,” I thought I could add my voice and unique experiences to the discussion.

I was the first American foreign fighter for Al Qaeda after Sept.…  Seguir leyendo »

American military advisers at an Afghan National Army base.CreditCreditJames Mackenzie/Reuters

President Trump may be a controversial and disruptive president. But in regard to Afghanistan, his frustration with the 17-year war differs little from the sentiments of President Barack Obama or most of the rest of us. Reportedly, he has asked for a precipitous cut of up to half the 14,000 American troops serving there, early this year.

That would be a mistake. There is still a strong case to sustain America’s longest war — especially if we redefine it, away from nation-building and toward something more like an enduring partnership with the Afghan people against regional and global extremism. Indeed, Washington should stop looking for an exit strategy and view Afghanistan as one pillar in a broader regional web of capabilities against Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and related movements that show few signs of dissipating.…  Seguir leyendo »

A building hit by U.S. airstrikes during the war against the Islamic State near the Turkish border wall in Kobani, Syria.CreditCreditMauricio Lima for The New York Times

The United States is at risk of another “Mission Accomplished” moment. On Wednesday, President Trump declared by tweet, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency.” President Trump is right that the United States has made tremendous progress against the Islamic State, and we’ve been honored to support that mission from the White House across two administrations as senior counterterrorism officials. But the Islamic State has not been “defeated” — and our mission in Syria has not been fully accomplished.

The recent Christmas market terrorist attack in Strasbourg that left five dead and at least a dozen injured serves as an all-too-vivid reminder that the threat posed by the Islamic State persists.…  Seguir leyendo »

Viernes 26 de febrero de 1993, el día en la isla de Manhattan avanza entre el frío invernal y la rutina bulliciosa de los trabajadores que abarrotan el complejo del World Trade Center (WTC). A las 12:18, un estruendo hace temblar el suelo de las Torres Gemelas y del hotel Vista International. La energía del complejo falla y un humo negro comienza a invadir el vestíbulo de la torre norte mientras la gente comienza a evacuar el WTC.

Los norteamericanos acababan de sufrir el primer atentado yihadista en territorio propio de su historia. Los terroristas habían aparcado en el garaje subterráneo del WTC una furgoneta cargada con unos quinientos kilogramos de Nitrato de Urea.…  Seguir leyendo »

A section of the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Credit John Moore/Getty Images

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump made a pledge to fill the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay with “bad dudes.” He brought up Guantánamo again on Nov. 1, a day after the Uzbek immigrant Sayfullo Saipov was arrested on a charge of killing eight people in a terror attack in New York. Mr. Trump said that authorities should send the suspect to the prison because the American justice system is a “laughingstock.”

But the next day Mr. Trump apparently changed his mind, indicating a preference for trying Mr. Saipov in New York. He said in a tweet that he’d “love” to send him to Guantánamo but “that process takes much longer than going through the federal system.”…  Seguir leyendo »

A New Jersey police officer stands guard in front of the Omar Mosque in Paterson, U.S., on 1 November 2017. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AFP

What do we know about the Uzbek links of the New York attacker?

Sayfullo Saipov left Uzbekistan in 2010, aged 21 or 22, and entered the U.S. legally on a Diversity Visa Lottery Program. We cannot say with certainty yet when he was radicalised, but both U.S. and Uzbek authorities say it was in the U.S. Others, including Saipov’s Uzbek wife and another Uzbek man, are being questioned by the FBI. It is not clear whether Saipov had any direct contact with the Islamic State (ISIS) or other Central Asians linked to the group, but ISIS, after some delay, claimed responsibility for the attack on 3 November.…  Seguir leyendo »

Fotografía policial de Saifullah Saipov, autor del atentado en Nueva York. AFP vía St. Charles County Police

Sayfullo Saipov es el último personaje de una tragedia contemporánea global que sobrepasa todos los límites de la racionalidad. Este anodino uzbeko de 29 años pasaba sus días sin pena ni gloria entre atascos y bocinazos a bordo de su vehículo de Uber por las calles de Manhattan. En 2010 ganó su visa de trabajo en Estados Unidos gracias a un sorteo de lotería organizado por el Departamento de Estado. Primero se instaló en la tranquila ciudad de Tampa, en Florida, luego se mudó a Ohio y más tarde probó fortuna en la ciudad-símbolo del sueño americano, Nueva York. Pero la fortuna ganada en la lotería y el sueño perseguido en Manhattan acabó en tragedia y terror con ocho cadáveres amontonados en un carril bici con vistas a la Freedom Tower.…  Seguir leyendo »

El presidente Donald Trump junto a su esposa, Melania, durante una ceremonia celebrada en la Casa Blanca en conmemoración de las víctimas del ataque terrorista del 11 de septiembre de 2001. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

Vi a mi presidente en su perorata en el Pentágono y todo lo que pude pensar mientras no paraba de hablar de heroísmo en la décimo sexta conmemoración del 11 de Septiembre (11-S) fue cómo acabamos con Humpty Dumpty.

Obviamente fue Humpty Dumpty quien declaró: “Cuando uso una palabra, significa solo lo que yo elijo que signifique, ni más ni menos”. Al menos Humpty Dumpty lo dijo sin el gesto de nuestro estimado líder de unir su regordete dedo anular y su pulgar una y otra vez.

Las palabras salieron a borbotones de esa boca contraída que no decía nada, porque cuando un hombre con un vacío moral trata de exhortar a una nación a la grandeza moral, lo único que comunica es su hipocresía patética y casi cómica.…  Seguir leyendo »

The National 9/11 Flag is unfurled during a ceremony on May 15, 2014, marking the opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City. (Don Emmert/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks — 16 years ago on Monday — President George W. Bush declared a war on terrorism that he pledged would not end until every terrorist group of global reach was defeated. Bush drew a line in the sand, telling every nation, “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” The Bush administration was more flexible than this rhetoric suggested, but it still evinced a strong willingness to act unilaterally.

President Barack Obama sought to make U.S. counterterrorism efforts more sustainable, and thereby enable the United States to focus more on other challenges.…  Seguir leyendo »

Alors que l’on évacuait les derniers traumatisés, je me dirigeais vers les Ramblas, la fameuse promenade de Barcelone où, une fois de plus, un nouveau «soldat de l’Etat islamique» venait de lancer son véhicule sur la foule. A peine quelques minutes plus tôt, la nièce de ma femme devait rejoindre des amis et je l’avais déposée à peu près au point d’origine de l’attentat, près de la place de Catalogne. Une fois encore le déjà-vu, l’effroi, comme lors du massacre du Bataclan en 2015 à Paris, tout à côté de là où ma fille habitait à l’époque. Plus loin au sud, sur le bord de mer, une voiture transportant cinq kamikazes issus du même groupe, armés de couteaux, a fauché une femme avant que la police ne les tue.…  Seguir leyendo »

A policeman in Manchester, England, on May 25. Credit Jon Super/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The leaking of sensitive information about the investigation into Monday’s terrorist attack on the Manchester Arena, including forensic images of bomb apparatus, to United States media caused dismay and anger among British officials. The prime minister, Theresa May, went so far as to raise the issue directly with President Trump when they met at Thursday’s NATO conference in Brussels.

To modify George Bernard Shaw’s maxim, Britain and America appear to be two countries divided less by a common language than by common secrets. While British investigators jealously guard detailed information about their operations, seeking to run their leads to ground before they are exposed to view, their American counterparts seem more willing to put what they know directly into the public domain.…  Seguir leyendo »

A firefighter trying to extinguish a fire after an attack by the Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab in Mogadishu, Somalia, last year. Credit Feisal Omar/Reuters

The Trump administration has made it clear that the United States will take a more aggressive approach to battling al-Shabaab extremists in Somalia.

In March, President Trump granted the military expanded authorities to operate in Somalia, paving the way for an accelerated military campaign.

By declaring parts of Somalia an “area of active hostilities,” Mr. Trump gave the Department of Defense authority to approve strikes without going through an Obama-era vetting process, which potentially lowers the bar for tolerance of civilian casualties. And the head of American forces in Africa, who advocated the change, said this would “allow us to prosecute targets in a more rapid fashion.”…  Seguir leyendo »

With its 9 May announcement that it has decided to directly arm the Kurdish-dominated People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, Washington has inserted itself even further into one of the region’s oldest and bloodiest conflicts: the 33-year-long fight between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is the mother organisation of the YPG and a group deemed a terrorist group by not only Turkey but by the US itself.

In fighting the Islamic State (IS), Washington has been supporting the YPG indirectly for several years and meeting with its commanders. But the decision to provide arms directly further elevates the PKK’s Syrian branch’s status.…  Seguir leyendo »

Smoke from a battle between Taliban and Afghan forces, Kabul, Afghanistan, March 1, 2017

Since assuming office President Donald Trump has barely mentioned Afghanistan, a country where US forces have been engaged in the longest war in American history. Perhaps this is because, after more than fifteen years and $700 billion, the US has little to show for it other than an incredibly weak and corrupt civilian government in Kabul and a never-ending Taliban insurgency. Now Afghanistan faces a new horror—as a testing ground for what can only be called a US weapon of mass destruction.

Trump’s silence on Afghanistan was finally broken on the evening of April 13—not with the announcement of a new political strategy but with the dropping of a monster bomb, the GBU-43, nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs,” on an ISIS base in a rural area of the country near the Pakistan border.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Afghan security official during an operation against Taliban militants in Laghman province, Afghanistan, this month.Credit Ghulamullah Habibi/European Pressphoto Agency

This year, America’s war in Afghanistan will pass a grim milestone as it surpasses the Civil War in duration, as measured against the final withdrawal of Union forces from the South. Only the conflict in Vietnam lasted longer. United States troops have been in Afghanistan since October 2001 as part of a force that peaked at nearly 140,000 troops (of which about 100,000 were American) and is estimated to have cost the taxpayers at least $783 billion.

Despite this heavy expenditure, the United States commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., recently called for a modest troop increase to prevent a deteriorating stalemate.…  Seguir leyendo »

The rubble of a home destroyed by reported coalition air strikes in al-Jadida, Mosul, Iraq, March 24, 2017. Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

In the opening months of the Donald Trump administration, there has been little sign of a coherent foreign policy taking shape. What is happening, however, is a dramatic militarization of US policy in the Middle East—one that is occurring largely without the consultation of American allies, and with hardly any public scrutiny. In the case of the war in Yemen and the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, these developments could have extraordinary consequences for US security and even the stability of the Middle East itself.

The disastrous January raid on an al-Qaeda target in central Yemen, just days after Trump took office, resulting in the death of a Navy SEAL and two dozen civilians, has been widely discussed.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week, we have seen reports that a former British inmate of Guantanamo Bay, Jamal Udeen al-Harith, carried out an ISIS suicide attack in Iraq.

Some will undoubtedly use this news to make the argument that Guantanamo Bay should remain open, that it should be increasingly used to house the current crop of jihadist terrorists and that no further inmates should be released.

Indeed, President Donald Trump has made some of these arguments, and Republicans have put pressure on him to expand the prison in Cuba.

No one is more outraged than me, a counter-extremism specialist, by the reports that a former Guantanamo prisoner joined ISIS and carried out this attack.…  Seguir leyendo »

The recent botched raid on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen is emblematic of Trump's governance style: bold, impulsive, and with a very certain disregard for consequences.

Nobody is yet sure whether this is by design or not. For some, Trump's policies are best explained by a version of chaos theory, largely attributed to the work of chief political strategist, Stephen Bannon. The first weeks' policies seek to create as much chaos as possible, provoke a liberal backlash that discredits its participants and (so the theory goes) fully consolidate the support of Trump's base.

For others, the first two weeks have been trial by fire, reflecting an untamed narcissistic desire to generate attention and affirmation, and made possible by creating an inner circle that has seemingly removed apolitical expert oversight.…  Seguir leyendo »