CHICAGO – Researchers in Chicago spent tireless months examining terrorism trends overseas to try to understand what may emerge after the pandemic.
At the Chicago Project of Security Threats, or CPOST, 40 researchers have been working to know 12 months underground for violent terrorism groups doesn’t mean all is quiet in the U.S.
The research, which was conducted at the University of Chicago, examined four regions of concern for Americans from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 of 2020.
They looked at the Middle East, Northern Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Central Asia.
Terrorism and militant violence in the areas they studied dropped between 5-10% during the pandemic in 2020.
“Overall, for the year as a whole, 2020 was a down year for terrorism and militant violence,” said CPOST director Dr. Robert Pape.
While, Northern Africa was largely flat in 2020, the other three key regions were not. There is something to be learned from the past year.
“Most of the drop is really due to the first 6 months and that’s as militant groups were experiencing COVID much the way states were. They were uncertain,” Pape said.
Pape said suicide attacks were down consistently in 2020, a pattern that actually didn’t start with COVID-19.
“This has been going on for the last several years, as America has withdrawn its military forces from the Middle East,” said Pape.
There are more revelations in Sub-Saharan Africa too: the one region the one region in the world where CPOST research shows there has been an unmistakable rise in violence during the pandemic.
“So what’s been occurring is that ISIS has been competing now head to head and actually fighting with Al-Qaeda sponsored military groups,” Pape said. “what’s happening is they are fighting and not to just control a local area, but to push each other out of the local areas of control.”
The states they are fighting in are so weak, the people become simply bystanders to this violence. ISIS and Al-Qaeda then create new sanctuaries.
Both of them are anti-American.
In Southeast Asia, which includes Afghanistan, violence was down in the first half of 2020, but has been on the rise since July.
“What’s important about Afghanistan is that we have also withdrawn a large amount of our ground forces in Afghanistan and the Afghan government is so weak that it’s now at a tipping point,” he said.
Pape underscores the Afghan government cannot stand on its own and the government that the U.S. helped install in 2003 is not well accepted. 70% of the population there feels its an illegitimate government.
These hot spots around the globe are ones American security experts should be watching, Pape warns. But are they… during the pandemic and following the siege on the U.S. Capitol?
“That event on Jan. 6th was an event of political violence is a major event of historic proportions and it’s natural that our country with that plus the pandemic is going to have a very hard time focusing internationally,” Pape said.
Pape went on to say the U.S. hasn’t been this inward looking since before World War II.