Al Qaeda and ISIS: Existential Threats to the U.S. and Europe

Salafi-jihadi military organizations, particularly ISIS and al Qaeda, are the greatest threat to the security and values of American and European citizens. ISIS and al Qaeda pose an existential threat because they accelerate the collapse of world order, provoke domestic and global trends that endanger American values and way of life, and plan direct attacks against the U.S. and its partners.

ISIS and al Qaeda are more than terrorist groups; they are insurgencies. They use terrorism as a tactic, but these organizations are insurgencies that aim first to overthrow all existing governments in the Muslim world and replace them with their own, and later, to attack the West from a position of power to spread their ideology to all of humanity. Separating the elements of ISIS and al Qaeda that are actively working to attack the West from the main bodies of those groups fighting in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia is impossible. All al Qaeda groups and ISIS affiliates seek to take the war into the West to fulfill their grand strategic objective of establishing a global caliphate, albeit according to different timelines.

Current counter-ISIS and -al Qaeda policies do not ensure the safety of the American people or the homeland. The primary objective of the U.S. government remains protecting the homeland and the American people, including safeguarding American values both in the homeland and abroad. The activities of ISIS and al Qaeda interact with the policies of Russia, Iran, and China to endanger the international systems upon which American safety and freedom depend. Any strategy to counter ISIS and al Qaeda will require coalition partners. However, there is no natural coalition of states with common goals that can readily work together to resolve this problem. The U.S. must lead its partners and ensure the continuation of existing guarantors of international security such as NATO.

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