From the Editor

On October 7, Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis in the largest terror attack since 9/11, carrying out acts of brutality that matched, and even surpassed, the worst atrocities of the Islamic State. The resulting war in Gaza, the escalation in tensions across the Middle East, and the anger in Arab and Muslim communities over the large number of Palestinian civilians killed in the conflict so far have upended the international terror threat landscape, creating acute concern about reprisals, and given the attacks already seen in France and Belgium, raised the specter of a new global wave of Islamist terror.

In our feature article, Devorah Margolin and Matthew Levitt write that “The brutal Hamas-led October 7 attack on Israeli communities near Gaza represented a tactical paradigm shift for the group.” They observe that “the group’s explicit targeted killing and kidnapping of civilians [on October 7] baldly contradicts Hamas’ articulated revised political strategy since it took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Ironically, Hamas’ sharp tactical shift only underscores that the group never abandoned its fundamental commitment to the creation of an Islamist state in all of what it considers historical Palestine and the destruction of Israel.”

Global jihadi groups have been exploiting the conflict in Gaza to call for attacks. In our feature interview, EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Ilkka Salmi says that “these calls to attack or to engage in some terrorist activity spread extremely quickly on social media and that’s why they could have a rapid and serious impact on the security situation. It reminds me of the days back in 2014-2016 when Daesh propaganda was at its high peak. The situation in Israel, combined with that sort of propaganda, could change the security situation in the E.U. quite drastically.” Tore Hamming writes that “three factors are likely to determine the impact of the ongoing events on the trajectory of the terrorism threat in the West: the length of the war, the scale of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, and the degree of support from Western nations to Israel.”

Erik Skare stresses that analysts need to holistically examine both what Hamas says and does to better understand the group. He writes: “October 7 likely signifies the victory of those in the movement who have grown frustrated with an excessive focus on politics, advocating instead for a renewed emphasis on violence to reach their long-term goals.”

In our second interview, General (Retired) Stephen Townsend, who commanded AFRICOM until August 2022, warns about intensifying jihadi terrorist threats across Africa. He says that al-Qa`ida’s affiliates there are “probably the largest threat to U.S. interests in the region today. And as they gain capacity, they’ll broaden their picture to the region and globally, to include our homeland eventually, I think.”

Finally, Asfandyar Mir examines the counterterrorism dilemmas facing the United States in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He writes: “Al-Qa`ida and the Islamic State are pivoting to exploit Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack on Israel and the civilian harm in Israel’s military campaign in Gaza since … Policymakers should take seriously the risk of a surprise terrorist provocation from Afghanistan.”

Paul Cruickshank, Editor in Chief

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