CSIS report says modern Salafi-jihadists are increasingly decentralized as terror attacks use simple tactics

A new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) says modern Salafi-jihadists are increasingly decentralized among four broad categories: the Islamic State and its provinces; Al-Qaeda and its affiliates; other Salafi-jihadist and allied groups; and inspired networks and individuals. Today, there are nearly four times as many Sunni Islamic militants today as there were on September 11, 2001.

Based on CSIS data, the regions with the largest number of fighters are Syria (between 43,650 and 70,550 fighters), Afghanistan (between 27,000 and 64,060), Pakistan (between 17,900 and 39,540), Iraq (between 10,000 and 15,000), Nigeria (between 3,450 and 6,900), and Somalia (between 3,095 and 7,240). Attack data indicates that there are still high levels of violence in Syria and Iraq from Salafi-jihadist groups, along with significant violence in such countries and regions as Yemen, the Sahel, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Somalia.

These findings suggest that there is still a large pool of Salafi-jihadist and allied fighters willing and able to use violence to achieve their goals. While the number of attacks recently in the United States has been relatively low, the terrorism threat has been higher in Europe. Examples include the November 2015 Paris attack (which killed 130 and wounded 368 people), the July 2016 Nice attack (which killed 86 and wounded 434), the May 2017 Manchester bombing (which killed 22 and injured 139), the June 2017 London Bridge attack (which killed 8 and wounded 48), the August 2017 Barcelona attack (which killed 24 and wounded over 150), and the March 2018 Carcassonne and Trèbes, France attacks (which killed 4 and wounded 15). European officials have also disrupted major terrorist plots. In September 2018, for example, the Netherlands foiled “very advanced” plans for a largemulti-site terrorist attack and arrested seven suspects inspired by the Islamic State. Terrorist attacks in the West have increasingly involved simple tactics, such as vehicles used to kill pedestrians, rudimentary improvised explosive devices, knives, swords, small arms, and blunt objects like hammers.