The Port Authority Attack is a Snapshot of Our Future

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 December 11, 2017|
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New York City on Monday suffered another terror attack at the hands of a young Muslim man who swore fealty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (better known as  ISIS). The 27-year-old Bangladeshi national strapped a pipe bomb on himself and attempted to detonate it at the New York City Port Authority in the middle of morning rush hour.

Three people were injured (mercifully, there were no deaths), and the would-be bomber, identified as Akayed Ullah, was taken to a nearby hospital.

It is a good thing for  New York City and the country that the terrorist wannabe did not understand how to build a proper pipe bomb. If he had, there likely would be many people dead and maimed, much economic damage, and another wave of fear would grip the city and the nation.

Kill the “Cyber Caliphate”
Since the physical manifestation of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in northern Iraq and Syria was destroyed, many ISIS fighters who avoided being killed or captured in battle are 
returning to their “homes” in Europe, Asia, Africa, and even the United States. Their intentions are not to settle down and lead quiet lives of recompense; they are seeking vengeance for the destruction of their caliphate. Therefore, the New York Port Authority terror attack is not an anomaly. Rather, it is a portent of things to come.

Fact is, the Islamic State’s all-powerful internet presence, the “cyber caliphate,” remains nearly unmolested. Information warfare and social media propaganda have been the most pernicious component of the Islamic State’s global agenda. This cyber caliphate is responsible for wooing many young, ideologically vulnerable Western-educated Muslim men (and some women) over the cause.

A few years ago, these radicalized elements would take off for more violent pastures in the Middle East. Today, however, these individuals no longer have anywhere to go. So they either stay at home (where they intend to terrorize their fellow countrymen) or they move to a country with more targets of opportunity.

Because of this, destroying the cyber caliphate must be the top priority for the Trump Administration.

Terrorism Map is Changing
Keep in mind: the attacker in New York City was a young Muslim man from Bangladesh. In the summer of 2016, Bangladesh
suffered a terrible terror attack in which young ISIS fighters stormed a café frequented by Westerners in the capital of Dhaka. When it was all over, 29 people were dead, including 20 hostages, two police officers, two staff, and five gunmen.

The Dhaka slaughter highlighted a large—and growing—problem that had mostly been ignored: the rise of jihadist terror networks throughout south Asia. Of course, we all know about the problems Americans face in Afghanistan; we are mostly familiar with the woes of Pakistan, but Americans don’t know much about the jihadist threat beyond those countries in southern Asia—from Pakistan and Bangladesh to Indonesia and the Philippines.

The Islamic State has spread beyond the Middle East—and continues to exist, even as the caliphate created by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been incinerated in Iraq and Syria. ISIS elements exist in the borderlands between Pakistan and Afghanistan. In fact, President Trump in April allowed American forces in Afghanistan to drop America’s largest non-nuclear bomb on a mountain in southeastern Afghanistan that was teeming with ISIS fighters. These fighters infiltrated Afghanistan from neighboring Pakistan.

For nearly two years, ISIS elements have competed with al-Qaeda for influence and control in Southern Asia. As this has occurred, the mostly young and unemployed (though devout) Muslim populations of these countries have become radicalized.

To compound matters, a Cuban refugee told me last year that when he was attempting to enter the United States, he was made to wait in Trinidad until the State Department could process his asylum request. While waiting there, he came into contact with scores of mostly young Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Nigerian migrants who were looking to enter the United States through the broken border with Mexico (since Trinidad is an unofficial part of the route that most illegal immigrants from Asia and Africa take to get into the United States).

Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria are home to not only Islamic extremism but also to the particular brand of violent Salafist extremism the ISIS espouses. And while we can shrug and say all of those migrants must be looking for work, at least some of them are likely seeking entry into the United States for nefarious purposes. Thus, the Trump Administration’s controversial travel moratorium seems all the more sensible today.

Help South Asia
The Philippine city of Marawi was effectively 
annexed by the Islamic State earlier this year. A five-week siege ensued, which ended in October with the destruction of the ISIS force by government troops. Yet the fact that ISIS could claim a city in the far-off Philippines—and hold it for as long as it did—is telling. And just because Marawi was liberated does not mean the ISIS threat to the Philippines is over. Far from it.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous (and relatively stable) Muslim country is suffering through a drastic increase in Islamic extremism, as ISIS fighters flee the Mideast and enter that country intending to bring their jihad to a new land.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh and several other South Asian states are being subsumed by a new wave ISIS-style terrorism. African countries, too, such as Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, and Niger are experiencing an increase in ISIS related activity. Yet the United States remains focused on Iraq and Syria.

Clearly, the fight against ISIS has shifted away from the Mideast. President Trump’s forthcoming National Security Strategy memo rightly focuses on boosting homeland security. But the president’s national security team should also intensify its support of Asian governments where Islamic extremism is on the rise. Further, the United States should expand its special forces activities in Africa and Asia, in an effort to neutralize the Islamic State’s threat before it becomes a real problem, as it did in northern Iraq and Syria in 2014.

We must never again allow for the Islamic State to rise anywhere in the world. America is winning against ISIS, but the fight is far from over.

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About the Author:

Brandon J. Weichert
Brandon J. Weichert is a contributing editor to American Greatness. A former Republican congressional staffer and national security expert, he also runs "The Weichert Report" (www.theweichertreport.com), an online journal of geopolitics. He holds master's degree in statecraft and national security from the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C. He is also an associate member of New College at Oxford University and holds a B.A. in political science from DePaul University. He is currently completing a book on national security space policy due out next year.
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8 Comments

  1. 906 Sparky December 11, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    President Bush said in a speech in 2002, the War on Terror would last for generations. Many Americans want this war to just go away. Well, President Bush’s words are very true and correct. America must fight harder without waging a PC war. Our enemies do not care about who they kill, and it is time to really hit them hard.

    • Brandon Weichert December 11, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      I slightly disagree. Tensions may have always existed, but had Dubya displayed a strong show of force–had he sallied forth in Afghanistan (and avoided Iraq entirely) and maintained a clear-eyed strategic view of ends-ways-means, as I’ve argued here and at The Weichert Report, we would have put the Islamists back on their heels without expending the money and lives that we ultimately did over the last 17 years.

      https://theweichertreport.com/2017/08/12/stop-calling-it-the-long-war/

      • 906 Sparky December 11, 2017 at 4:12 pm

        Iraq was a United Nations invasion. Authorized by UN Resolution 1441. The invasion was 48 UN members, of course with the USA being the biggest force, removing Saddam from power. Saddam has violated the peace treaty from the Gulf War, denied WMD inspections by UN inspectors numerous times, violated UN air space with unauthorized military flights, and promoted his WMDs. Saddam used WMDs in the Gulf War and they were a legit threat. Bush had to sell the invasion to the American people based on the UNs intel Remember Hans Blix?

        • Brandon Weichert December 21, 2017 at 9:25 pm

          And yet, General Zinni and several other military officials argued that the 1998 Operation Desert Fox removed the bulk of Iraqi WMD. While I agree Saddam maintained the capabilities (the so-called “nuclear mafia”), those capabilities are also found in Iran and are even more advanced (and were during Bush’s reign also) in North Korea and yet no serious moves were taken to curb those clear-and-present dangers. Bush used Clinton era intel and the Bush team categorically dismissed any alternative viewpoints to their preordained assumption that Iraq needed to be next. Hans Blix and his team–including US weapons inspector, David McKay–all categorically denied that Iraq had the kind and level of WMD that the Bush team was saying they had. Irrespective of whether Iraq had the weapons they denied having, the fact remains that from a strategic standpoint the US gained NOTHING by going into Iraq. A real strategist looks at the whole picture as one piece, not piece-by-piece.

          • 906 Sparky December 21, 2017 at 10:17 pm

            Saddam’s history of using WMDs, as he did in the Gulf War and shortly after, created concern from the UN, Iraq’s neighbors, and other nations in the region. Saddam’s repeated defiance to allow UN inspectors access and fly zone violations were the last straws before the invasion was authorized.

            Bush’s biggest mistake was not the invasion, but failing to stand up to the Democrats and a media that constantly questioned the occupation and nation building. Bush played the part of the typical GOP politician and refused to set the record straight. Instead he played submissive to criticism, but still won re-election. He failed to sell the intel gathered showing Iran and Syria being involved in the isurgency. He should have pounded both countries due to their rolls in the killings of US military members and Iraqi citizens. Bush was not willing to expand the war because he did not want to fight the negative press. Trump is a different person compared to Bush.

            Fighting an ideology will carry over borders and governments that support those ideologies. The Middle East would be a different place today had Syria, Iran, and Pakistan been dealt with, which could have been done. Instead, Obama allowed the rise of ISIS and the chaos that he allowed to happen in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

    • Bill Robbins December 12, 2017 at 8:00 pm

      President Bush also said that Islam is a religion of peace and we should all go shopping. Imagine FDR telling Americans after Pearl Harbor that Imperial Japan was a nation of peace and Americans should go buy stuff.

  2. Infidel1776 December 12, 2017 at 4:31 am

    There can’t be a War on Terror because terror is merely a tactic, one, by the way, which the Allies used quite effectively in the bombing of Dresden, Hamburg and Tokyo. Also, “Islamic extremism” is Islam as it Mohammed intended it to be practiced; it is not a perversion of a great religion as so many Western apologists claim. Fighting the barbarians in their homelands is futile as they have the home field advantage. Our best bet is to marginalize the Muslims already here and contain the rest of them to their third world sewers.

  3. Europa December 15, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    “It is a good thing for New York City and the country that the terrorist wannabe did not understand how to build a proper pipe bomb.”
    True. Tamil Tigers who perfected the Suicide vest and probably carried out more suicide attacks than any other terrorist group in Sri Lanka and India would have carried enough explosives to obliterate that entire section at the NCPA.

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