Fighting Terrorists & Unintended Consequences

By Erik Goepner

A retired Army general recently suggested that if U.S. military advisers can’t successfully train up nine Iraqi brigades within the next year, then either more U.S. forces must be deployed to Iraq or Americans will have to accept the Islamic State’s caliphate. The implicit assumption –that American effort is critical to stopping the Islamic State (or al Qaeda, or whatever similarly inspired group may follow) – is common. Yet, attempts to quantify the return on America’s investment of “effort” are rare. Typically, the debate seems influenced by either those who view any loss of life as unacceptable or those who say no 9/11 type of event has occurred since, so whatever the cost, keep it up. On the one side: We should never have invaded Iraq, on the other: If we had not left when we did, things there would be better.

A Rudimentary Assessment

One way to look at America’s effort is to tally the amount of money spent fighting terrorism and the number of military members who have been deployed to the fight. That effort could be compared to the number of terrorist events which have occurred. Recognizing efforts typically take time to have an impact, the money and manpower effort for this basic assessment lagged a year, so the impact of the 2001 effort was compared to the number of terrorist attacks in 2002. In 2001, the U.S. deployed approximately 17,500 military members to fight the global war on terror and the Department of Defense spent approximately $16.6 billion[1] to support those efforts. In the intervening 12 years, the number of service members deployed to fight the war on terror peaked above 200,000[2] before settling at nearly 67,000 in 2012. During the same time, spending peaked at $184.8 billion in 2008/9 before decreasing to $125.6 billion in 2012.[3]

Across those 11 years, America’s efforts to fight terror increased dramatically. Funding rose more than 600% and military personnel support rose by nearly 300%.[4] During that time, however, the number of terrorist attacks jumped 345%. Call it unintended consequences. Call it complex and nuanced. Either way, significant research is needed, as America’s efforts, albeit noble, do not appear to be delivering the desired results. Pouring forth money is one thing, but putting America’s sons and daughters in harm’s way is quite another. We need to ensure the efforts achieve the goal.


Image Credit: NBC News

[1] See “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11” by Amy Belasco (Congressional Research Service), March 29, 2011

[2] See chart on p. 25 in “Troop Levels in the Afghan and Iraq Wars, FY2001-FY2012: Cost and Other Potential Issues” by Amy Belasco (Congressional Research Service), July 2, 2009

[3] See p. 4, “U.S. Costs of Wars Through 2014” by Neta Crawford, 25 June 2014

[4] See Crawford and Belasco’s reports listed above.

Terrorist Attacks in a Democracy

By Erik Goepner

Terrorists executed nearly 690 attacks in India last year. For the second year in a row India ranked fourth in total number of terrorist attacks, behind only Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact, in each of the past six years, over 500 attacks per year have taken place in India.

Beyond the high volume of attacks, lies another story—the interesting hodgepodge of terrorist groups within India’s borders. To the north—where the world’s highest altitude conflict continues over Kashmir—Islamic extremist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba operate. As noted in the graphic below, these  groups have launched successful attacks in more populous and central areas of India, as well. To the west, Socialist and/or Communist groups like the United A’chik Liberation Army conduct attacks with the goal of seceding from India. Located more in the interior of the country, Communist organizations commit their atrocities in an effort to overthrow the Indian government.

Last year, seventeen of these terrorist events killed six or more people. As the graphic below shows, the Communist terrorists caused the most high-fatality events and also committed the two most destructive attacks, killing 17 and 15 people respectively.

India Picindia index




Perhaps even more disturbing than the terrorism numbers, the Center for Systemic Peace ranks India as the nation with the highest “interstate, societal, and communal warfare magnitude score” in the world. The score reflects the “total summed magnitude” of major episodes of political violence within a country’s borders and consists of civil violence and war, ethnic violence, and international violence and war. Based on the research conducted by the Center, India has had the highest magnitude score since 2002 (see Major Episodes of Political Violence, 1946-2013 dataset and accompanying Codebook at html).


Map Credit; Image Credit

Terrorism in 2013

By Erik Goepner

An estimated 61% more people perished from terrorist attacks in 2013[1] than did in 2012. As the Global Terrorism Index Report authors note, those 18,000 deaths far surpassed the 3,361 deaths from terrorist attacks in 2000. Drawing on data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism’s Global Terrorism Database, the report and the data it contains have much to offer.

Interested in how terrorist group ideology has morphed over the past decade and a half? Check out the following graphic and observe how the religious-based groups have come to dominate terrorist activity.

Terrorism 2013(Source: Global Terrorism Index 2014, p. 31)

Who conducted the attacks? Two-thirds of the fatalities were caused by four groups: the Islamic State, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda and its affiliates. As the report noted, “extreme interpretations of Wahhabi Islam” were the key commonality among the groups.

Unsurprisingly, more than 50% of the fatalities occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria accounted for another 30% of the fatalities.  In total, those five countries bore the brunt for 82% of terrorist-caused fatalities last year.

Looking at the details of the attacks, half of them resulted in no fatalities. Approximately 40% killed between one and five people, while 10% took the lives of six or more human beings. The most lethal form of attack was suicide bomber. While suicide attacks had the highest failure rate (56%), they caused an average of 11 fatalities per attack as compared to two fatalities for all other forms of terrorist attack.

Last year, suicide attacks only accounted for five percent of all terrorist attacks. Of concern, though, the Islamic State conducted 58 of the suicide attacks. By comparison, the two most prolific suicide attack groups over the past decade—al-Qaeda in Iraq and Tehrik-I-Taliban in Pakistan—have averaged 13 and 14 suicide attacks per year, respectively.

As a final note—perhaps for balance, perhaps to recognize the role of fear in terrorism—how might we understand the tragic loss of 18,000 lives to terrorism last year as compared to the 430,000[2] who were killed in homicides?


Image Credit: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Terrorism Prevention

[1] The authors of the report note that the manner of data collection for the Global Terrorism Database became more automated in 2011. As a result, some events that may have been missed in prior years would now be collected, possibly inflating numbers for 2011 and following years. In response, they modeled three approaches. For example, their conservative model indicated the number of terrorist events rose by 475% since 2000, as compared to a 689% increase for the upper bounded model.

[2] See the Global Study on Homicide 2013 available at

Pledging Allegiance to the Islamic State?

By Erik Goepner

Jihadist groups from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria and Libya allegedly pledged their allegiance to IS over the past few days. The Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium estimates 60 distinct groups from 30 separate regions now ally themselves with IS.

Some of these groups are long in the tooth, pre-dating the attacks of 9/11. Take, for example, the Abu Sayyaf Group that is fighting for an independent Muslim state in the southern Philippines. Comprised of approximately 400 fighters, they began operations more than 20 years ago. A bit further to the south and west, Jemaah Islamiyah has been conducting operations since 1993. With between 500 and several thousand members, they seek to establish an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia and all or parts of five neighboring countries. Another veteran group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, wants to overthrow the Uzbek government and establish an Islamic state. They had their start in 1991.

Then, there are the notable post-9/11 creations who have allied themselves with IS. These include Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, estimated to be the “most lethal Qaeda franchise” (not to be confused with the AQ affiliate, al-Nusra Front, in Syria, with whom IS potentially forged a very recent peace accord). Additionally, Egypt’s “most active militant group”, Ansar Beit al-Maqd and its estimated 2,000 fighters, have also pledged allegiance to IS.

Finally, in a blur of frenzied change that gives new meaning to creative destruction and bandwagoning, a number of militant groups are simultaneously breaking old alliances, reinventing themselves, and forging new partnerships in the hopes of improving their return on investment. Inadvertent homage to western concepts notwithstanding, examples include Soldiers of the Caliphate in the Land of Egypt, Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria, and Soldiers of the Caliphate (in Libya). Experts estimate the “Soldiers of the Caliphate…” moniker might itself be an attempt to create a franchise, one that speaks to both local and global audiences. Moreover, it is a number of the smaller groups populating the “Soldiers of the Caliphate…” umbrellas that are thought to have splintered off from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other organizations. They seem to think a switch to IS offers better odds.

Libyan Town in the Hands of IS?

By Erik Goepner

In early October, the Islamic Youth Shura Council announced that Darnah, Libya, had joined the Islamic State’s caliphate.  Alternatively referred to as Derna or Darna, 80,000 call the city home.  Sitting along the Mediterranean, Darnah has a “notorious” reputation as a center for the recruitment of fighters for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.  Two hundred miles to its east lies the Libyan border with Egypt, while Benghazi sits 180 miles to Darnah’s west.

Darnah, Libya

Relatively unknown, the Islamic Youth Shura Council (aka MSSI) is thought to have begun operations in March of this year under the banner of al-Qaeda.  The current rift between al-Qaeda and IS notwithstanding, the Islamic Youth Shura Council is now one of 20+ jihadi groups which have pledged their allegiance to IS.  With things moving so quickly and on-the-ground access for journalists often too risky, the affiliation between the two groups remains uncertain.

At the same time, Tripoli and Benghazi are purportedly under the control of Islamist groups as well, though those groups have no known affiliation with the Islamic Youth Shura Council.  In Tripoli, a federation of dubious unity, known as Fajr Libya, appears to be nominally in control, while in Benghazi multiple groups have also loosely aligned themselves, the largest of which is Ansar al-Shariah.  Against this backdrop of insecurity, Khalifa Haftara, an ex-Libyan general, now leads an interesting array of forces attempting to reassert government control.  He oversees Libyan military units, ostensibly under government control, along with assorted militiamen; loyal, it would seem, only to him.


Map Credit

Islamic State Goes Old School

By Erik Goepner

Recent reports suggest that IS has employed chlorine as a weapon.  Though currently unconfirmed, these reports suggest that IS is looking to bolster its inventory of tactics, techniques and procedures. In so doing, they’ve gone old school.

IS’ first use of chlorine as a weapon may have been in September against Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias north of Baghdad.  Reports indicate the chlorine was delivered via bombs.  No one died, but approximately 40 reported difficulty breathing and heavy coughing.  One source said IS had taken the chlorine from purification plants overtaken during their advance.

Additional reports suggest that IS employed toxic gas in Kobani on October 21. Patients reportedly sought medical care for trouble breathing, burning eyes, and blisters.  A doctor on-scene ruled out chlorine as the cause, while assessing the injuries as consistent with exposure to an as-of-yet unidentified chemical.  The Guardian noted, however, there was no consensus or confidence from experts regarding potential causes of these injuries.

Five days later, an Iraqi military commander said seven chlorine filled projectiles were fired into a residential area of Anbar province, though no casualties were reported.

According to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), though, this is not new.  The implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention reported chlorine was already used “systematically and repeatedly” in northern Syrian villages earlier this year.  Western government officials assert Assad’s forces had employed the chlorine, though it is unclear if other groups may also have been responsible.

Historically, perhaps the most heinous and deadly precedent for chlorine-as-weapon comes from World War I, when the Germans dispersed 168 tons of chlorine during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium.   Approximately half of the 10,000 allied soldiers in the affected area died.  Two days later, chlorine was again used, killing an additional 1,000 Allied service members.

What might the future hold?  The Nuclear Threat Initiative, writing in 2007 about chemical weapon fears in Iraq, noted that the worst industrial accident in history was the release of 40 metric tons of methyl isocyanate at a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India.  3,000 were killed and more than 100,000 were injured.  The author concluded that a “sufficiently large release of elemental chlorine may be capable of exacting a comparable toll, particularly if discharged in a highly populated civilian area.”  However, the author also noted chlorine is typically ineffective against a “prepared adversary” because its visible color and potent odor announce its arrival and the effects of chlorine can be mitigated with “simple countermeasures,” such as gas masks or wet cloths placed across the nose and mouth.

Image Credit: Stripes

The Islamic State: Thoughts from the Top Think Tanks

By Erik Goepner

Annually, the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the University of Pennsylvania publishes a ranking of the world’s think tanks.  Regarding the Islamic State and the coalition’s response, perspectives from senior researchers and fellows at the four top-rated defense & national security think tanks follow (i.e., the Center for Strategic and International Studies, RAND, International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the Brookings Institution).  The insights come from Jon Alterman, Ben Connable, Ben Barry, and Kenneth Pollack, respectively.

Overall Strategy:

  • Political settlement and reconciliation is critical (CSIS, RAND, IISS & Brookings)
    • Force collapse of IS from within (CSIS)
    • “Resurrect” power sharing arrangement fashioned by the U.S. during the surge and “recreate” a unified Iraqi government (Brookings)
  • Build an effective coalition (CSIS, IISS)
    • This is a complex endeavor: U.S., et al, want to focus on Iraq first, while the UK and others recommend starting with Syria; several Arab partners will only conduct kinetic operations in Syria; and Turkey is potentially more concerned with the Kurds than IS
    • Iraqi government needs to effectively balance outreach to Sunnis, sustaining military support from Iran, and engagement with the U.S. (IISS)
    • Those with the most to offer are the least willing to participate (i.e., Sunni states and Turkey) (Brookings)
  • Empower moderate forces (Brookings)
  • S. will “have to lead an effort of nation-building to heal the wounds of the [Syrian] civil war. It is unavoidable.” (Brookings)
  • President Obama is on the right track, not just to defeat ISIS but also to address the “wider circumstances” of Iraq and Syria (Brookings)
  • Too militarily focused (CSIS)
  • Two somewhat different approaches are needed to address the two different civil wars (Brookings)
  • Delegitimize IS’ ideology and message (CSIS)
    • IS’ information operations are quite successful, it is unclear whether Iraq and/or the coalition will effectively counter (IISS)

Political Component:

  • Place main emphasis here (RAND, IISS)
  • Sunni reconciliation in Iraq is a must (RAND, IISS, and Brookings)
    • Sunnis are primarily nationalist and, therefore, anti-Iranian, not necessarily anti-Shia (RAND)
    • Most Iraqi Sunnis “reject IS methods and philosophy” (RAND)
  • New Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi should enact all grievance resolutions available to him in one fell swoop (RAND)
  • Divisions within the Sunni polity are problematic (RAND, IISS)
    • Some Sunni leaders have been marginalized for having tried to work with unity government, perceived as having failed
    • Difficult to find one or a handful of Sunni leaders to be the face of reconciliation efforts (RAND)

Military Component:

  • Airstrikes are insufficient (RAND)
  • Build a new army in Syria to oppose the Assad regime (Brookings)
  • Iraq’s recent tactical successes resulted, in part, because of Shiite and Kurdish militia participation (CSIS)
    • But, inclusion of Shiite militias may be used by IS to kindle Sunni-Shia civil war (IISS)
  • IS has high morale and decent fighting prowess (RAND)

The Islamic State: 5% of the Militarization Problem

By Erik Goepner

An estimated 1,000+ militant organizations currently operate in Iraq, Syria, or both. Comprising somewhere between 600,000 and 1 million fighters, each fights for its desired piece of the power pie. Professor Robert Bates of Harvard wrote that when states fail, “those with power employ it to extract resources from those without power. The latter flock to those who offer them security, albeit often for a price…Political predation from the top is thus accompanied by the militarization of civic society below.”* The “militarization of civic society” seems an apt description for Iraq and Syria, where IS and its ~30,000 fighters comprise just 5% of the overall armed presence.

The extent of militarization within both countries represents a substantially larger problem than IS alone. The 1,000+ armed groups, however large or small, each has a different perspective on what the future should look like, and each appears to agree with Mao that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Should IS be defeated, approximately 1,000 armed groups would remain. They include the Iraqi army, of which 48% of its brigades are assessed as too sectarian to be a credible force against IS. Syria’s security forces, the next largest group, have been condemned for their systematic attacks against the civilian population, with more than 190,000 now dead. The third largest group is likely the Kurdish Peshmerga, which the U.S. has begun arming. With somewhere between 80,000 and 200,000 fighters, they fight for the Kurdistan Regional Government located in northern Iraq. Their goals remain somewhat unclear, but appear to include increasing territorial gains in Iraq and, potentially, the establishment of their own nation-state. The next largest, the Islamic Front, is an umbrella group for multiple Islamist groups comprised of an estimated 50,000 fighters intent on establishing an Islamic state in Syria. Depending on which estimates are more accurate, the fifth largest armed group is either IS or the Free Syrian Army.

A sample of the remaining 1,000 or so armed groups follows:

Estimated Fighting Strength Name Description
10,000 Mahdi Army (aka Peace Brigades) Shiite; fighting IS, historically has received support from Iran
10,400 Islamic Army of Iraq Sunni Islamist, nationalist; more inclusive of others within the Iraqi jihadist movement than IS
10,000 Badr Organization Shiite; previously aligned with the ISCI
5,000 – 6,000 al-Nusra Front Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria
2,000 – 4,000 (“several thousand”) 1920s Revolution Brigades Sunni Islamist, nationalist; wants to install a state guided by Islamist principles in Iraq
1,500 – 15,000 People’s Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish; has been linked to Democratic Union Party (i.e., the dominant Kurdish party in Syria)
1,500 – 5,000 Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al-Naqshabandi (JRTN) Sunni; offers alternative to al-Qa`ida in Iraq (AQI)
1,000 – 5,000 League of the Righteous Shiite; opposed to al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army, thought to be fighting in both Iraq and Syria; supported by Iran

*see “State Failure,” Annual Review of Political Science, 2008.

Image Credit: Business Insider Australia

The Manifestos of the Islamic State, Part II

The Manifestos of the Islamic State: Part I is available here.

By Erik Goepner

Potential recruits hear at least two different messages from the Islamic State. The first is a grievance-based message that can, by definition, be ameliorated over time. The second, though, appears to be timeless, albeit subject to significant waxing and waning of appeal.

God infuses this second message, which makes it enduring. With more than 80 percent of the world’s inhabitants professing a religious identity, including 1.6 billion Muslims, God is bigger than the Beatles and it is Nietzsche who is dead. However corrupt IS’ message might be, it is God-focused. Each speech begins and ends with praises to Allah. References to key Quranic figures, such as Muhammad, are common. Verses from the Quran are interspersed throughout their proclamations.

No doubt IS carefully selects certain passages and overlooks others, but in its larger context, the verses remain the expression of God. For the faithful, that can be quite powerful.

The message also endures because of its purported purity. The message calls its hearers to purity before Allah and the message itself is pure, in that it is unambiguous. Purity before God is an important pursuit for many religious people, and this pursuit often requires personal sacrifice. At God’s command, Abraham had his knife out, ready to slay his own son. Flogged for their faith, Jesus’ followers rejoiced for being “counted worthy” of suffering for God. Sacrifices seen as callings from God can have profound implications for the pious believer.

IS also communicates a black and white story. In a nod to Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot before them, grey cannot be found in IS’ messages, and with no shade of grey goes any need for doubt or accommodation. As a result, their message is particularly effective on youth, who have great capacity to see hypocrisy in others but oftentimes have not yet developed the wisdom needed to see their own hypocrisy and shortcomings.

As for IS’ grievance-based theme, it may be more successful in attracting recruits, but it need only have temporal appeal. “Upon whom do they [the Americans, Jews and rafidah] plot and conspire night and day?” The Islamic State, answers their spokesman (1:50 into the video). Transgressions are being meted out against Muslims in “Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Burma, Nigeria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Indonesia, India, China, the Caucasus, and elsewhere,” claims IS.

As IS tells it, the Sunnis (often represented as the “true believers”) are under siege:

  • The Egyptian Brotherhood outlawed and imprisoned, again
  • Sunnis have become second-class citizens in Iraq following Saddam’s ousting
  • They are the “out-group” in Syria (despite being the majority)
  • Israel’s treatment of Palestinians
  • Killing of Muslims in Burma

In Andrew Bacevich’s recent op-ed, he notes Syria has become “at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed…since 1980.” This latest foray he expressively phrases, “Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV.” There is no hint that the force was unjustified, but rather his article raises interesting questions about how that force may be interpreted and reacted to.

Over time, the grievance-based theme can be substantially ameliorated by the efforts of a variety of actors within the Middle East (e.g., by enfranchising Sunni communities to a greater extent or providing increased economic opportunities for youth). The God-focused message, though, may prove more problematic. While its appeal seems to vary greatly through the centuries, the 9/11 Commission noted (see ch 12, p. 362) it follows a tradition “from at least Ibn Taymiyyah [~1300], through the founders of Wahhabism, through the Muslim Brotherhood, to Sayyid Qutb [1950s].”

So what is a possible way forward? “Reform coupled with respect,” suggests Fareed Zakaria, where intellectuals and theologians celebrate and emphasize the tolerant, liberal, and modern parts of Islam, while also giving devout Muslims reasons to take pride in their faith.

The Manifestos of the Islamic State: Part I

By Eric Goepner

The Islamic State’s recently released Flames of War is a sleek, 55-minute video that has led some to draw Hollywood comparisons.  Watching the film, observing its production quality, and use of branding, a viewer might conclude it represents growing capacity for the Islamic State and an increased skillfulness with respect to public affairs and propaganda.  Alternatively, the viewer might detect substantial incoherence between ideology/theology, which can be viewed as anti-Western and backward-looking (to the times of Muhammad), and the tactics they feel compelled to adopt.  Their propaganda tactics mimic Hollywood while their rhetoric deplores the West’s decadence and the technology they embrace is only created in future-oriented societies.  Either way, directly consuming IS’s source material has value beyond what can likely be learned from secondary sources alone.  For the strategy and military-minded, reviewing IS’s primary sources helps actualize Sun Tzu’s dictum to know your enemy.

Part of the picture which emerges from their primary sources suggests a reactive, perhaps helter-skelter, organization quite concerned about what other Muslims are saying about them.  The Islamic State’s press releases, speeches and videos can be as specific as the evils of the Iraqi government and the need to expand operations in Diyala province or as general as “everyone is fighting the state.”  The oscillation between the specific and general seems to have less to do with purposeful vision and strategy than it does with their current fortunes and, more importantly, the actions of others.

Both Flames of War and another recently released video indicate IS is quite concerned the public affairs campaigns of other Muslim groups are having a neutralizing effect against IS.  In a move that defies the Washington injunction to always deny wrongdoing or failure, IS includes footage of other Muslims criticizing them on issues of religious understanding and practice (see Flames of War minutes 23-24 and 4:50+ in the second video).  After, IS interestingly follows this section with graphic video of their own battle dead, only to then include footage suggesting Allah has strengthened them and given them the victory.

A year ago, in a brief video purportedly from their spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, he railed against fellow Muslim nations, specifically Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria.  Then, in July of 2014, Abu Bakr, the so-called caliph of the Islamic State, offered up more traditional propaganda, beginning with numerous quotes from the Quran, extolling fellow Muslims to be and do well during Ramadan, and so on.  When he did turn his attention to the threats that concerned him, he mentioned China first.  Soon after, his threat concerns spewed forth like an unguided brainstorming session:  the Philippines, Indonesia, the Kashmir, Burma, the leaders of the non-Muslim world—“America and Russia,” and on he went.  In all, he listed 19 countries as enemies of Islam.

Around the same time, their spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, released a 42-minute meandering speech via social media.  In it, he focused on the United States and Europe before expanding his critique to the Canadians and Australians.  Finally, he took aim at the alawites and Shiites.

As for Flames of War, it appears to be targeted at the United States and, perhaps, a broader western audience.  The frequent honorifics given to Allah and quotations from the Quran are gone, replaced with footage of American presidents and military operations.


Next week’s installment will focus on the Islamic State’s recruiting message. On a related note, you might find Andrew Bacevich’s recent opinion piece on the Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV an interesting read.

Image Credit: Mashable