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There were more than 10,000 terrorist attacks worldwide last year — five times as many as there were the year of the Sept. 11 attacks, the leader of a new congressionally mandated task force on extremism told reporters.

Expand chart
Data: Global Terrorism Database; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. The incidents labeled as terror attacks include armed assault, assassination, bombing/explosion, facility/infrastructure attack, hijacking, hostage taking (barricade incident), hostage taking (kidnapping) and unarmed assault.

The big picture: After 9/11, the U.S. honed in on confronting terrorists and protecting the homeland, according to former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, a co-chair of the original 9/11 commission and co-chair of the new task force on extremism. But Kean told reporters there's been "no headway" on one of the commissions' recommendations following the 9/11 attacks: preventing the spread of Islamic terrorism.

Terror groups thrive on instability, a newly released report from the task force explains. Areas that have no solid governing power, are in the midst of a civil war or are suffering from a "breakdown of social order" are at the highest risk of fostering extremism.

  • Per the report, 77% of conflicts in the Middle East, the Sahel region in Africa and the Horn of Africa "have a violent extremist element," up from 22% in 2001.
  • But the damage brought on fragile states is only the beginning: "As more states suffer violent outbreaks of extremism ... international order unravels further."
  • And extremism undermines regional influence and fuels chaos, the task force explains, allowing powers like Russia, Iran and China to exploit threats for their own economic and strategic purposes.
  • Per the report, the U.S. "cannot compete effectively against China, Russia, or Iran as long as extremism fuels an arc of instability" in the region.

The bottom line: The report concludes that extremists are now focused on "establishing a new political order." The task force says the U.S. strategy must evolve into one of prevention, starting by strengthening the world's most at-risk states.

"Despite our best efforts since 9/11 to counter terrorism and protect the homeland, the threat of extremism and its danger to the United States has evolved, and it continues to grow.”
— Former Gov. Thomas Kean

Go deeper

In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.

Rep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19

Lou Correa. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) announced on Saturday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Correa is the latest Democratic lawmaker to share his positive test results after last week's deadly Capitol riot. Correa did not shelter in the designated safe zone with his congressional colleagues during the siege, per a spokesperson, instead staying outside to help Capitol Police.