December 7, 2020
Are domestic anti-government groups the biggest threat to America?

International terrorism has declined over the past five years, largely due to the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. But many fear ISIS and al Qaeda could re-emerge as threats when U.S. troops draw down in Iraq and Afghanistan. Terrorist attacks by white supremacists and other far-right groups are increasing, with Russia and Ukraine serving as hubs for recruitment and training. And in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security said white supremacists were the “most persistent and lethal” domestic terrorism threat. But President Trump has been reluctant to condemn white supremacists, instead calling activists protesting police violence “terrorists.” With people spending more time online due to the coronavirus pandemic, both domestic and international terrorist groups are using the internet to spread propaganda and recruit followers.

Mourners leave candles in memory of four people killed and 14 wounded during a Nov. 3 shooting spree in Vienna, Austria. Mourners leave candles in memory of four people killed and 14 wounded during a Nov. 3 shooting spree in Vienna, inspired by the Islamic State jihadist extremist group known as ISIS. (Getty Images/Xinhua/Georges Schneider)

For the fifth year in a row, global terrorist attacks declined in 2019, the most recent year for which statistics are available, down 14 percent from 2018. Overall, terrorists launched 8,473 attacks around the world, killing 20,309 people, 13 percent fewer than the year before, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, a leading research group supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 1

Global terrorism peaked in 2014 after the Islamic State (ISIS), a violent jihadist group designated by the United States as a terrorist organization in 2004, declared an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria. But the successful military campaign by U.S.-backed forces — which defeated ISIS in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria in 2019 — has led to a steady decline in attacks. Between 2014 and 2019, overall terrorist attacks worldwide dropped 50 percent, and deaths fell by 54 percent. 2