In Other News – Terrorism After 9/11 & More – 9/10/2021

September 10, 2021

Terrorism after 9/11 and the potential impact of the Taliban’s reemergence.

Many of us can still remember where we were twenty years ago on September 11, scrambling to contact and locate loved ones as we watched the Twin Towers transform into smoky, foreboding chimneys rapidly approaching collapse. The attacks were highly personal, not only for those who tragically lost family members or friends that day but for anyone who cherished the value of freedom. Thousands of lives were taken on 9/11, and thousands more in the subsequent weeks and years as our nation retaliated against myriad terrorist threats ranging from al-Qaeda attacks on US interests to the advent of ISIS and its attempted caliphate.

Over the past two decades the threat of terrorism has evolved and shifted but it has never disappeared. Terrorist groups continue to exploit local grievances to assert regional control, strengthening their presence in parts of South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Even where groups don’t have a physical foothold, they can claim an ideological one and in the years since 9/11 the internet has significantly disrupted the way that terrorist groups recruit, organize and operate. The recent attack on Karzai airport in Afghanistan, attributed to regional ISIS affiliate ISIS-K, demonstrates the resilience of a diffuse movement whose members are motivated by shared ideology.

Indeed, in Afghanistan, groups like ISIS-K and most notably the Taliban itself, have been able to maintain or develop a certain degree of power despite years of foreign military intervention. It can be debated whether a continued US presence would have contained these violent elements, and for how long and at what cost, but as it stands now the Taliban has gained control and it’s going to try to keep it. The Taliban is presently focused on establishing itself as a legitimate governing entity with firm command over the Afghan people and an eye towards acquiring regional power.

But as part of this effort the Taliban will need to figure out how to use its connections to al-Qaeda and Pakistan to thwart rivals like ISIS-K, potentially expanding its reach into, and further destabilizing, South Asia in the process. While it remains to be seen how much the Taliban and al-Qaeda will ultimately unite to support each other’s regional power grab, the Taliban likely recognizes that any attack on the United States cultivated on Afghan soil would come at an extremely high cost‒ resulting in a rapid US military response, and again weakening the ambitions of both groups in the process.

UAE establishing specialized court for money laundering as part of larger effort to strengthen nation’s standing as an international financial center. Over the past several years the UAE has been making a concerted effort to enhance its anti-money laundering (AML) regime and its progress was recognized in the latest Financial Action Task Force (FATF) assessment that lauded many of the nation’s improvements. But given the stature of the UAE as a major business and financial hub dealing with a large volume of diverse, high-risk inputs, the number of annual money laundering prosecutions nationwide hasn’t lined up with the degree and type of activity. Recognizing this disparity, in late August, the government of Dubai announced the establishment of a new court within the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal that will be focused on prosecuting money laundering offenses, further building out the UAE’s efforts to prevent financial crime after the Executive Office of AML and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) was approved by the cabinet in April. Abu Dhabi established a similar court last fall which has already been instrumental in prosecuting financial crimes that often require specialized expertise. While the UAE’s AML/CFT efforts are increasingly important and commendable, the success of the courts will still depend on inputs from financial institutions, regulators, and invested citizens who must all play a role in identifying criminal activity and alerting authorities to the illicit behavior.