The world is going through frenzied changes at a blistering pace, making it more difficult to provide futuristic insights, given the fact that the magnitude, speed, and scope of the vicissitudes of life are unprecedented; the results cannot be accurately expected. However, the intelligence centers can still map out the features of such changes and develop methods to evince readiness and preparedness. The Global Trends 2040 Report, issued by the National Intelligence Council in the United States of America every four years, since 1997, is one of the great efforts that have come into play in 2021. The said report provides featured insights, analyses and perceptions.
The 2021 Report is developed around two key principles: (1) identification and assessment of the major powers that shape the future strategic environment and (2) The investigation and exploration of ow leaders and peoples act on and respond to such major powers. The analyses of the provided are divided into three sections:
- Section One explores structural powers in four key areas: demographics, environment, economics, and technology. They make up key areas in shaping the future, are relatively global in scope, predictable with a reasonable degree of confidence based on the data made available.
- Section Two examines how such structural powers interact to influence major activities emerging at three levels of analysis: individuals and society, states, and the international system.
- Section Three identifies and uses several key uncertainties to create five future visions of the world in 2040. These scenarios are not intended to be predictions; they are meant to broaden the focus of possibilities, further exploring different combinations of how structural powers, emerging movements, and key uncertainties operate.
The report expects that terrorist groups would continue to feed on societal fragmentation and poor management to achieve ideologies and access to power through violence. Over the next twenty years, the report predicts regional and local conflicts, overpopulations, environmental degradation, and democratic decline will likely exacerbate political, economic and social grievances that terrorists have long instrumentalized and weaponized to gain supporters and find havens to stage conspiracy, provide training, and orchestrate more organizational agendas. Such factors will have different dimensions and effects across many regions and countries. Equally important, internal migration from the countryside to the city is likely to deplete the resources of states and reduce global and domestic counterterrorism efforts. Terrorist groups based on religious foundations are likely to be the largest and are likely to represent the largest transnational threat because they draw on an influential ideological reference and the ability to capitalize on territories uncontrolled or poorly controlled by governments, especially in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
The right and left terrorists who promote a spate of issues, such as racism, environmental protection, and anti-government will flourish in Europe, Latin America, North America, and possibly other regions. The insurgencies will exploit sectarian conflicts over ethno-national and sectarian issues to stoke and fuel terrorism. Accordingly, some insurgencies will fade away, and others will be more powerful. Although some groups will aspire to launch cross-border attacks and maintain their cross-border links, most attacks will still be launched by local groups against local targets to achieve local goals. Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah efforts will increase the threat of disproportionate attacks on the interests of the United States, Israel, and countries in the Middle East.
Tactics of Terrorists and Counterterrorist Forces
It is likely that most terrorist attacks in the next 20 years will continue to use weapons similar to those currently available, such as small arms and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) because it is easily accessible and reliable. However, technological advances, such as artificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology, and the Internet of Things (IoT) may provide opportunities for terrorists to launch high-profile attacks by developing new, more cross-border attack methods.
Terrorists will also seek weapons of mass destruction and advanced weapons to launch horrific attacks that cause mass casualties. For instance, ISIS in Iraq and Syria launched mustard gas attacks and used drones on a large scale, as do the Iranian-backed militants. Autonomous delivery vehicles guided by AI systems can enable a single terrorist to hit dozens of targets; technological advances can enable virtual terrorist training camps, connecting experienced terrorists with potential operatives in havens.
In turn, technological innovations that expand the surveillance capacity of local governments help combat terrorists. Governments are likely to significantly expand the volume and type of data they collect and provide the tools to screen such data. Advances in biometric identification, full motion video analysis, and metadata analysis will allow; Governments have improved capabilities to locate and track down terrorists. The development of precision long-range strike capabilities could undermine terrorist havens beyond the reach of police or infantry forces.
Reshaping Counterterrorism Landscape
The report suggests that the change in the movement and activity of the international force, especially in the wake of the rise of China and the competition of major powers, would challenge the efforts of counterterrorism led by the United States, and might make it more difficult to establish bilateral partnerships, or multilateral cooperation, regarding efforts to collect passenger data and sharing information to prevent terrorists from crossing borders and entering new conflict areas. Poor countries are likely to suffer from domestic threats, particularly if international counterterrorism is limited. Some countries facing existential threats, such as insurgencies in which terrorists are active, may choose to sign non-aggression pacts that make terrorists free to organize within their borders, while other countries are forced to submit to terrorist rule over large swaths of their territory.
Terrorist groups may be increasingly ubiquitous among additional non-state actors in conflicts, such as private companies and mercenaries. It may include some conflicts between states, and international interventions in local conflicts, more armed agents, private military companies, and terrorist organizations as agents and private sector companies can reduce the cost of equipping specialized units to fight these conflicts and find manpower in countries that suffer from population decline. Some groups can achieve goals more quickly using fewer forces and asymmetric techniques. Russia has used private groups and agencies in conflicts in Libya and Syria. Private companies have provided a wide range of logistics and other services to coalition forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries.
The report analyzes common global challenges, including climate changes, diseases, financial crises, technological transitions, and disruption. The report predicts that they will appear frequently and intensely in nearly every region and country, and create widespread pressures on nations and societies, and potentially disastrous shocks.
Unfortunately, the magnitude of transnational challenges exceeds the capacity of existing international systems and structures. A great mismatch exists at all levels between systems and organizations to address challenges and needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a stark example of poor international coordination on health crises, mismatches between existing institutions and funding levels, and future health challenges.
At the level of countries and societies, a persistent gap is likely to exist between what people demand and what governments and companies can provide. In many parts of the world, people are constantly taking to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the ability of governments to meet a wide range of needs and expectations. Against such imbalance, the old systems, most including bureaucratic institutions and practices and typology of governance will be unstable and, in some cases, weakened.
Many societies will be increasingly divided over the identity of affiliations; societies will be at greater risk of collapse. Relationships between societies and governments will come under constant strain, as states struggle to meet the constant demands of the population. Therefore, politics within states is likely to become more volatile and contentious, and no region, ideology, or system of governance seems to be unaffected by future changes or to have the keys to a more stable future.
- Slowing global population growth and rising life expectancy will help some developing economies; however, rapid aging and shrinking populations will affect many advanced economies. It will be difficult to build on decades of progress in education, health, and poverty reduction or even to maintain them.
- Climate change will greatly exacerbate risks to human and national security and force countries to make choices. Burdens will be unevenly distributed, increasing competition, contributing to instability, and encouraging political movements.
- Global economic trends will shape conditions within and between countries; the most prominent features of these trends are high national debt, a more complex and fragmented trading environment, spread of global trade in services, new employment disruptions, and the continued rise of powerful companies.
- The pace and scope of technological developments will increase, human expertise and capabilities will be transformed, new tensions and disruptions will be created for all actors, and global competition will increase in the essential elements of technical excellence.