US Must Remain Vigilant As Terrorism Threat Evolves – OpEd


By Dalia Al-Aqidi

Russia was struck by an unparalleled tragedy on March 22, as gunmen launched a brutal assault on Moscow’s Crocus City Hall, resulting in the loss of more than 140 lives. The events of that fateful day — the deadliest attack on Russian soil in decades — plunged the nation into mourning and shock.

In a chilling display of violence, militants armed with guns and incendiary devices stormed the venue just moments before a concert was due to begin, indiscriminately firing bullets at unsuspecting concertgoers. The carnage that ensued highlighted the sheer brutality of the attack, bringing back the horror of international terrorism. Amid the chaos and devastation, the specter of terrorism loomed large, as Daesh’s Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for the heinous act, further compounding the anguish of those affected.

The release of footage from the attack served as a stark reminder of the pervasive threat posed by extremist ideologies and underscored the urgent need for collective action to combat the forces of hatred and division. This attack offered a stark reminder of the danger of the Daesh terrorist organization and the transformation of the geographical areas of its operations.

The Moscow operation starkly highlighted the adaptability of Daesh and its ability to perpetrate acts of terror beyond its traditional geographic boundaries. Despite facing significant setbacks, including the loss of crucial territories, it continues to pose a formidable challenge to global security.

Just two weeks prior to the attack, American officials had both publicly and privately informed Russia about “extremists” with “imminent plans” for such an assault. This vital intelligence exchange fell under a guiding principle within the US intelligence community known as the duty to warn. This principle dictates that the American intelligence agencies should prioritize sharing critical information about imminent threats whenever feasible. This commitment holds true regardless of whether the potential targets are considered allies, adversaries or something in between.

The terrorist attack sounded an alarm in the US, as echoed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who issued a sobering reminder of the ongoing threat posed by Daesh. Despite significant efforts to combat this menace over the years, Blinken emphasized that the Moscow attack serves as a stark indication of the group’s enduring potential for violence.

Speaking from the State Department, he expressed his condolences for the tragic loss of innocent lives and underscored the imperative for sustained efforts to prevent Daesh from regaining strength and carrying out further acts of terror. Blinken’s remarks serve as a call to action, highlighting the ongoing necessity to confront and neutralize the threat posed by radical groups to ensure the safety and security of communities worldwide.

This event has ignited a crucial debate, prompting us to ponder a fundamental question: If a nation like Russia, which is known for its stringent border controls and meticulous monitoring of crossings, can still find itself vulnerable to terrorist attacks, what does this imply for the US?

Under the Biden administration, the nation has witnessed a significant influx of illegal immigrants crossing its borders without restriction, condition or vetting. This surge, occurring amid a complex landscape of immigration policies and enforcement challenges, raises legitimate concerns about America’s ability to defend itself against the looming threat of extremism.

Can the US effectively shield itself from the dangers posed by extremist elements, particularly when it has such porous borders? This question strikes at the heart of national security discourse and demands a nuanced examination of policy frameworks and their implications for safeguarding the country from potential threats.

In recent testimony, a military general and the director of national intelligence sounded a clarion call regarding the significant threat posed by Daesh and its affiliates, emphasizing their assessment of potential attacks within the country. However, according to the Department of the Treasury’s 2024 National Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment, the primary terrorist threat to the homeland currently emanates from individuals residing within the country. These individuals, influenced by ideologies associated with groups like Al-Qaeda and Daesh or domestic violent extremism, are motivated to carry out deadly attacks independently, without direct orders from any terrorist organization.

This assessment underscores the evolving nature of terrorism, particularly the growing influence of online radicalization via social media platforms. These platforms serve as virtual breeding grounds for individuals susceptible to extremist ideologies, providing them with a means to connect, radicalize and coordinate attacks with limited detection. Consequently, the homeland security landscape has become increasingly complex, necessitating a multifaceted approach to counterterrorism efforts.

A similar report from the Department of Homeland Security highlighted that terrorism, whether originating from foreign or domestic sources, remains a significant threat to the safety and security of the US in 2024. However, the threat landscape is evolving, with new challenges emerging alongside traditional ones. Looking ahead, the Department of Homeland Security assesses that the risk of violence stemming from individuals radicalized within the country will persist at a high level. This threat is characterized by lone actors or small groups carrying out attacks with minimal advance warning, posing significant challenges for law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

The report highlighted that foreign terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh are actively seeking to rebuild their capabilities abroad. These groups maintain extensive global networks of supporters, raising concerns about their potential to target the US.

As such, vigilance and proactive measures are essential to counter the multifaceted nature of modern terrorism. And as the US navigates this ever-evolving threat landscape, policymakers, law enforcement agencies and the broader community must address the root causes of extremism. This includes robust efforts to counter online radicalization, enhance intelligence-sharing mechanisms and strengthen community resilience against extremist influences.

By adopting a comprehensive approach that addresses both the symptoms and underlying drivers of terrorism, US administrations can better safeguard the country and mitigate the risk of future attacks.

  • Dalia Al-Aqidi is executive director at the American Center for Counter Extremism.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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