Since 2004, the State Department has been required to submit an annual report to Congress on the status of terrorist threats in select countries and from select groups by April 30th of each year. The public version of this year’s report was released yesterday.
The State Department describes “a landmark year in the global effort to counter terrorism,” highlighted by the death of Osama bin Laden as well as the “removal from the battlefield” of what the State Department describes as four key Al-Qaeda operatives; two killed in Pakistan, one in Yemen and one in Somalia. The State Department explains the significance:
The loss of bin Ladin and these other key operatives puts the network on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse. These successes are attributable, in large part, to global counterterrorism cooperation, which has put considerable pressure on the al-Qa’ida core leadership in Pakistan. But despite blows in western Pakistan, al-Qa’ida, its affiliates, and its adherents remain adaptable. They have shown resilience; retain the capability to conduct regional and transnational attacks; and, thus, constitute an enduring and serious threat to our national security
The State Department points out several Al-Qaeda “affiliates” that have developed, grown, and adapted; Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula (Yemen), Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (North Africa) and Al-Shabab (Somalia), all of whom documents the government recovered from the Abbottabad compound suggest bin Laden worried about. Also singled out as adaptive and growing threats; Al-Qaeda in Iraq (which the State Department surmises is moving into Syria), and Boko Haram, an extremist group in Nigeria with no formal ties to Al-Qaeda yet, according to the State Department.
The report also includes overviews of American-designated “State Sponsors of Terrorism”:
- Iran is noted as an “active state sponsor of terrorism”: the government is accused of plotting the assassination of the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. on American soil, of refusing to charge Al-Qaeda members they are holding in detention, and of arming the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and militant Shi’a groups in Iraq.
- Syria, the State Department reports, “continued its political support to a variety of terrorist groups affecting the stability of the region and beyond, even amid significant internal unrest,” though the foreign fighters have switched directions at the Syria-Iraq border.
- Sudan has been a designated state sponsor of terrorism since 1994, and the ICC issued an arrest warrant against its president in 2009, but the State Department describes the country as “a cooperative counterterrorism partner of the United States,” though it does not recognize Hamas a terrorist group.
- Cuba is on the list for allegedly harboring members of the Basque ETA and the Colombian paramility group FARC. The State Department says the Cuban government is trying to distance itself from former ETA members by denying them government services including travel documents, and that there’s no evidence Cuba is arming FARC. They are still, however, harboring persons wanted in the U.S. and so remain on the list.