The Islamist Terrorist Threat to Europe after Osama bin Laden’s Death

Posted: October 5, 2011 in Chatham House
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A longer paper on the current state of the Islamist terrorist threat to Europe ten years on from 9/11 for Chatham House. It was written and presented prior to news of Awlaki’s death, so that is not included, but I do not think it alters a huge amount the thrust of the piece, except to shift the threat a bit from AQAP. I have a feeling his death will have an impact on western radicalisation, as I do think individual religious leaders like himself are important in getting young European’s excited. Will explore that in another longer piece I have forthcoming, but in the meantime here is the paper:

And a link to the event: – it was part of the European Security and Defence Forum series that Chatham House run, and thanks to Benoit and Claire for the invitation to attend and the efforts with the paper!

  1. davidbfpo says:

    Bravo, a good sound and short analysis. Curious how many references were made to the alleged documents found in the Abbotabad house.

  2. Thanks! Well, I was writing the article as they were all coming out, so to some degree timings. But also, it is interesting to try to parse exactly what influence he did have. Authorities in the US have said he was very active, but the evidence to have emerged shows this is fragmentary. Be very interesting to get the actual story.

  3. davidbfpo says:


    This is a response from a now retired US Army NCO:

    I don’t think this study broke any new ground, but it is useful because it is unclassified and therefore valuable as an education tool for those who don’t understand the nature of the threat.

    One part of the study was the author’s apparent conflicted view on the importance of Al Qaeda Core. In one paragraph he’ll argue they’re not important, and then in the next point to their control of terrorist cells in the West. In short AQ Core remains important (though less important), and as the study points out the threat ideology has taken on a life of its own allowing numerous individuals, cells and other organizations to participate in open source Jihad.

    I didn’t see any valuable recommendations in the study, but I think one he could have pointed out was that due to fragmented nature of Jihad threat and other terrorist groups and lone wolfs acting to support various cause that it is impertative that the European States maintain capable police and intelligence services and that the their people are educated to be eyes and ears for security forces.

    There is no silver bullet for eliminating the threat or preventing the conversion of frustrated young people to the various extremist causes.

    Finally, almost as if by magic, undoubtedly part of the build-up to the Olympics next year, a newspaper story based on “leaks” from insiders, sorry MI5:

  4. Well, this was not intended as a policy advice piece, but the comments are still welcome. Maybe I underplayed my sense that the core is clearly in decline, but the point was to show that it was not gone, but clearly a decline from what went on before.

    Thanks for posting!

  5. […] to Europe and the western alliance more broadly – it draws on a lot of points that I go into detail about here, but I also expand a bit on some of the future threats that Europe may face. […]

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