ISIS Threat Grows in the West
While ISIS has been losing territory in the Middle East, its ability to attack western nations, including the United States, has been escalating. The New York Analysis of Policy & Government has reviewed key examinations of the growing threat:
A study from George Washington University’s Program on Extremism notes that
“ISIS-related mobilization in the United States has been unprecedented. As of the fall of 2015, U.S. authorities speak of some 250 Americans who have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria/Iraq to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and 900 active investigations against ISIS sympathizers in all 50 states…Social media plays a crucial role in the radicalization and, at times, mobilization of U.S.-based ISIS sympathizers. The Program on Extremism has identified some 300 American and/or U.S.-based ISIS sympathizers active on social media, spreading propaganda, and interacting with like-minded individuals… ISIS-related radicalization is by no means limited to social media. While instances of purely web-driven, individual radicalization are numerous, in several cases U.S.-based individuals initially cultivated and later strengthened their interest in ISIS’s narrative through face-to-face relationships. In most cases online and offline dynamics complement one another. The spectrum of U.S.-based sympathizers’ actual involvement with ISIS varies significantly, ranging from those who are merely inspired by its message to those few who reached mid-level leadership positions within the group.”
Jean-Charles Brisard and Kevin Jackson at The Combatting Terrorism Center at the West Pont Military Academy recently found that
“…by late 2013, the Islamic State had already started building the machinery to launch external attacks, as assessed, for instance, by Dutch intelligence. A returned French jihadi, Mourad Fares, recounted that a prominent figure involved in building up the group’s external attacks capability was Abu Usama al-Madani, a senior Saudi leader running the Islamic State’s foreign fighters affairs. As such, al-Madani handled the recruitment for a secret training program to dispatch volunteers back home for operational purposes.The account of Nils Donath, a German extremist who at one point joined the Islamic State’s security-intelligence apparatus (amniyat), further indicated that the organization envisioned striking the “far enemy” on its own soil, before declaring a caliphate. Donath told interrogators after his return to Germany that
“Besides sharpening its anti-Western rhetoric and issuing operational advice to its sympathizers through its media outlets, the group also mobilized its core members for a campaign of attacks in Europe. In the spring of 2015, for instance, foreign recruits attended a Friday sermon in Raqqa delivered by Mohamed Mahmoud, a notorious German militant figure, during which he advocated attacks against Germany and portrayed jihad in Europe as a duty. Several accounts from Islamic State militants detained on their return by European security services indicated the Islamic State was intensifying its external attack planning, with onetime French recruit Reda Hame describing their efforts in and around Raqqa in June 2015 as a “real factory.”According to these accounts, willing candidates could sign up for external operations,
“In planning attacks, the Islamic State’s external operations wing underwent a vetting and approval process, based on its enlisted volunteers’ files, to identify suitable recruits for its terrorist plots. For instance, close attention was paid as to whether a candidate had a media profile or was wanted at home, even though numerous operatives eventually selected were already known by their home country’s security services. It appears that the amniyat (security service) led these efforts, with some of its operatives entrusted with facilitating and planning attacks overseas.”
Harleen Gambhir at The Institute for the Study of War reports that
“ISIS is executing a sophisticated global strategy that involves simultaneous efforts in Iraq and Syria, the Middle East and North Africa, and the wider world. Homegrown terrorism is increasing in the U.S. and Europe…The anti-ISIS coalition is currently focused on ISIS only within Iraq and Syria. Therefore the U.S. is vulnerable to strategic surprise resulting from ISIS’s external activity. ISIS has the potential to pressure and divert allies that are critical to the U.S.-led coalition’s efforts, while continuing its own expansion program. Simulating the effects of ISIS’s endeavor in advance revealed insights that will assist in the creation of a coherent counter-ISIS strategy, rather than a piecemeal strategy formulated as crises occur…ISIS likely will expand regionally and project force globally in the medium term. Few countries are willing or able to counter ISIS as a global phenomenon…The U.S. must define the global counter-ISIS mission, and then determine the nested objectives for ISIS and each of its affiliates in support of that mission…ISIS’s global campaign likely will increase policymakers’ tolerance of frequent, high-level, and widespread violent events, creating opportunities for the United States’ adversaries.”
Originally published on New York Analysis of Policy and Government.
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