Fifteen years after the attacks on 9/11 and five months from the end of President Barack Obama’s tenure, Americans are asking tough questions about where we are in the fight against terrorism. The truth is that America is safer today against the most dangerous threat – that of a catastrophic terrorist attack. Moreover, our counterterrorism efforts are on more sustainable footing than when Obama first took office. Osama Bin Laden is dead, core al-Qaida in Pakistan has been degraded, and the U.S. no longer has hundreds of thousands of troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But Obama will clearly not be the last president to confront jihadist terrorism. His successor will face a global threat landscape that is more diverse and diffuse than the one Obama inherited. In 2008, less than 9,000 people were killed by terrorism globally. In 2014, that number had grown to over 32,500. Three-quarters of these deaths occurred in five countries, nearly all of which are active war zones: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and Nigeria.