Trends in Terrorism: What’s on the Horizon in 2021?

The year 2020 was unprecedented in many ways. Just three days into the year, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) commander Qasem Soleimani. That news was soon eclipsed by the worldwide spread of the novel coronavirus and the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns, protests, and a bitterly contested presidential election in the United States are just a few of the factors influencing the terrorism threat heading into 2021. So, what will this upcoming year bring?

On a global level, several developments could increase terrorism in certain parts of the world. With the United States drawing down forces in the Middle East, South Asia, and throughout Africa, al Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS), and their respective affiliates could make a renewed push to capture new territory and destabilize countries and regions. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Nigeria are home to jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda and ISIS. Even with the current state of its leadership in question with uncertainty surrounding the health of Ayman al-Zawahiri and the recent assassination of al Qaeda veteran Muhammad al-Masri, 2021 could prove to be a banner year for al Qaeda as it seeks to reassert itself through affiliates around the globe.

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Source: Foreign Policy Research Institute