March 22, 2016

CNAS Press Note: Terror in Brussels and Europe’s Vulnerabilities

Washington, March 22 – Following the recent terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium, Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Strategy and Statecraft Program Director Julianne Smith has written a new Press Note, “Terror in Brussels and Europe’s Vulnerabilities.”


The full Press Note is below:

Today’s terrorist attacks in Brussels reveal a great deal about Europe’s ongoing counterterrorism vulnerabilities, the reach of the Islamic State, and the pressing need for transatlantic unity and cooperation. Despite a number of efforts to strengthen their counterterrorism capabilities over the last decade, European capitals remain vulnerable, particularly in light of the foreign fighters that have been traveling from Europe to Syria for training. As they have done in the past in the wake of similar attacks, Europeans will need to move quickly to enhance their intelligence and law enforcement capabilities, counter-radicalization programs, and strategic communications strategies. They will also need to ensure that European countries are able to share traveler data with eachother. 

In regards to ISIS, these attacks demonstrate the group’s continued emphasis on attacking soft targets far removed from the conflict raging inside Syria and Iraq. Salah Abdeslam’s capture just days ago revealed much about the group’s advanced tactics and reliance on sophisticated weapons and communication technology. Their tactics are clearly improving. 

Finally, these attacks serve as a stark reminder about the importance of transatlantic cooperation and unity. Much has been accomplished since 9/11 in terms of strengthening transatlantic counterterrorism cooperation. But some initiatives have stalled in the face of differences over data protection. Those differences will have to be bridged as both sides of the Atlantic double down on their efforts to deter similar attacks in the future. 

Europe is in crisis. Its institutions and governments are under enormous pressure not only from the threat of ISIS but also the historic migration crisis and a resurgent Russia. It is in America’s interest to help Europe stay resilient and work with our European friends to address these challenges.


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