Ali and Huber (MPP '20) warn of terror threat in CNN op-ed

September 11, 2019

 Marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, in a CNN opinion piece Towsley Policymaker in Residence Javed Ali and Ford School student Marcella Huber (MPP ‘20) call for the U.S. to take immediate steps to combat a specific looming terrorist threat. Despite the loss of its physical caliphate and significant battlefield casualties, Ali and Huber warn in “The US needs to act now against the next terrorist incubator” that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ideology is building strength in a remote corner of northeast Syria where a 1.5-square-mile complex called al-Hol holds more than 70,000 people being detained by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Within this population, report Ali and Huber, thousands are becoming radicalized and increasingly committed to the ISIS cause. 

“As national security professionals with careers in the military and counterterrorism communities respectively, we feel now is a crucial moment for the United States to demonstrate global leadership and develop a clear strategy to deal with this complex issue,” they wrote. Ali served on the Trump Administration’s National Security Council from 2017 to 2018. Huber serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserve. 

Ali and Huber call for the United States to “establish a line of authority to the camp” on multiple levels, allowing Departments of State and Defense to establish diplomatic will and physical security within al-Hol, permitting the Department of Justices to establish “precedence in the prosecution of individuals affiliated with ISIS,” and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure U.S.-bound ISIS affiliates to uphold repatriation agreements. 

“Absent U.S. pressure,” write Ali and Huber, “the international community has no appetite to intervene in the camp…The presence of thousands of committed ISIS supporters languishing at al-Hol could become an unprecedented terrorist incubator unless the United States and the international community rapidly mobilize to address the crisis.” 

Read the opinion column on

Javed Ali is a Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence at the Ford School for fall 2019, teaching "National Security Council and Counterterrorism" and co-teaching "Cybersecurity for Future Leaders." A former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, Ali has over 20 years of professional experience in national security and intelligence issues in Washington, D.C., serving in the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. While at the FBI, he also held senior positions on joint duty assignments at the National Intelligence Council, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the National Security Council under the Trump Administration.

Marcella 'Marcy' Huber is an Air Force Reserve Lieutenant Colonel with numerous overseas assignments accumulating more than 12-months of service in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Europe as a Public Affairs Officer (PAO) on missions with U.S. Central Command, and U.S. Transportation Command. She currently serves at U.S. Central Command in Communication Integration. While at U.S. Transportation Command she served as the Future Operations Department Head for approximately 35 joint reservists in a rapidly deployable, planning-centric command. In her civilian capacity, she worked for Ausley Associates Inc., as a contractor for the Navy’s F/A-18 & EA-18G Program Office. Previously, Marcy was contracted by General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) to serve as the PAO to the Navy’s diversity spokeswoman, RADM Wendi Carpenter, who was the first female Navy aviator to promote to admiral.