The authors would like to thank the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Preparedness Group(NSPG) co-chairs Lee Hamilton and Tom Kean and its director, Michael Allen, for the opportunity to writethis report; Katherine Tiedemann, a research fellow at the New America Foundation’s CounterterrorismStrategy Initiative, for her work on this report; NSPG member Stephen Flynn for his input on theconclusion; Gene Thorp for the detailed map and Keith Sinzinger for his review; Andrew Lebovich, LauraHohnsbeen, Nicole Salter, and Sophie Schmidt from the New America Foundation, and Professor WilliamBanks, Alyssa Procopio, Jason Cherish, Joseph Robertson, Matthew Michaelis, Richard Lim, Laura Adams,and Drew Dickinson from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University for their research on recent anti- American terrorism.
Al-Qaeda and allied groups continue to pose a threat to the United States. Although it isless severe than the catastrophic proportions of a 9/11-like attack, the threat today ismore complex and more diverse than at any time over the past nine years. Al-Qaeda orits allies continue to have the capacity to kill dozens, or even hundreds, of Americans ina single attack. A key shift in the past couple of years is the increasingly prominent rolein planning and operations that U.S. citizens and residents have played in the leadershipof al-Qaeda and aligned groups, and the higher numbers of Americans attachingthemselves to these groups. Another development is the increasing diversification of the types of U.S.-based jihadist militants, and the groups with which those militantshave affiliated. Indeed, these jihadists do not fit any particular ethnic, economic,educational, or social profile.Al-Qaeda’s ideological influence on other jihadist groups is on the rise in South Asia andhas continued to extend into countries like Yemen and Somalia; al-Qaeda’s top leadersare still at large, and American overreactions to even unsuccessful terrorist attacksarguably have played, however inadvertently, into the hands of the jihadists. Workingagainst al-Qaeda and allied groups are the ramped-up campaign of drone attacks inPakistan, increasingly negative Pakistani attitudes and actions against the militantsbased on their territory, which are mirrored by increasingly hostile attitudes toward al-Qaeda and allied groups in the Muslim world in general, and the fact that erstwhilemilitant allies have now also turned against al-Qaeda.This report is based on interviews with a wide range of senior U.S. counterterrorismofficials at both the federal and local levels, and embracing the policy, intelligence, andlaw enforcement communities, supplemented by the authors’ own research.