Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts This July Fourth: A New Push for Freedom From Terror

This July Fourth: A New Push for Freedom From Terror

Crowded celebrations throughout the United States this July 4th are a tempting target for ISIS and other radical groups. From fireworks to festivals, children and parents, security and police will be stretched thin — and terrorists see an opportunity to outdo the Boston Marathon bombing in bloodshed.

Three attacks on three separate continents last week — in Tunisia, France and Kuwait — add to international concerns that there is more to come. Each one targeted civilians in large crowds, and in each case, the perpetrators had been influenced by radicals fighting in Syria.

How did we get here?

It has been a tragic case of history repeating itself: Al Qaeda formed in 1989, riding the coattails of victory against the Soviets by a range of jihadist actors. When the U.S. pulled out of Somalia four years later, following the ugly battle depicted in the movie Black Hawk Down, Osama bin Laden hailed it as the U.S. “dragging its tails in failure, defeat and ruin.” These “victories” became staples of al Qaeda propaganda in the 1990s. The 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks dealt a setback to the movement by driving out many of the fighters from their strongholds — and a decade of hard-nosed counterterrorist action culminated in 2010 with Bin Laden’s killing and President Obama’s declaration that Al-Qaeda is “on a path to defeat.” Perhaps he was right at the time. But with the war in Syria, the movement and its offshoots acquired a new leash on life. America’s withdrawal from Iraq presented ISIS with its own basis to claim “victory,” and in the warped mindset of the international jihadist, the subsequent televised beheadings added to its prestige. ISIS is now believed to control more than $1 billion in assets, thanks to oil sales and theft.

Now more than 7,000 foreign fighters have joined the war in Syria, thanks to estimates by U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper — from at least 50 countries…

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