Thursday, June 16, 2016

CIA director: ISIS terror capability not significantly reduced despite battlefield losses.

CIA Director John Brennan gives a security briefing. Reuters. 

CIA Director John Brennan says that despite losses on the battlefield, ISIS terror capabilities have not been significantly reduced. Reuters. Though the US campaign against ISIS has damaged the terror group both financially and on the battlefield, ISIS is still able to launch terror attacks. ISIS is also deploying and training more troops for terrorist attacks. The remarks come after Omar Mateen killed 49 people in a massacre at a gay club. Though no direct link between Mateen and ISIS has been found, Mateen swore allegiance to the terror group. These lone wolf attacks inspired by ISIS, such as the Orlando attack and the San Bernardino attack last year show how difficult it is to counter ISIS. ISIS has many troops throughout the world, and Brennan gave CIA estimates for the number of ISIS fighters in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. 

My Comment:
This is not surprising at all. It's been clear for a long time that ISIS is still a major threat. Just this year alone, the Brussels terror attacks showed that for sure. And just this week there was a terror arrest in France and rumors that ISIS had sent teams of terrorists into France and Belgium to attack. And that's just the attacks we know about. Other threats have been disrupted without it ever making it to the news.

So why cover this? Because it is surprising that Brennan admitted it. According to the Obama administration ISIS is on the run. They are getting beaten and wiped out and don't pose much of a threat at all. The attack in Orlando had nothing to do with ISIS and was all the fault of those "evil" "racist" Republicans and the "Nazi" NRA. And all of it is Donald Trump's fault. Somehow. To hear a major government official admitting that radical Islam is a threat is refreshing in face of all the propaganda right now.

I'm not so sure about the numbers the CIA is citing. Though I bet they are correct for the countries outside of Iraq and Syria, I am not so sure about the numbers of fighters there. There might not be any more combat troops for ISIS but I don't think those figures count support troops, government officials and civilians that would fight for ISIS if they were either forced to do so or came under attack. The CIA always seems to downplay the number of ISIS fighters and I wonder if the reason why is that they are only counting front line fighters. 

Brennan also pointed out that even though ISIS is getting pushed back in Syria and Iraq, they are still expanding elsewhere. In Libya, the local government has only just begun trying to fight them after they had already taken a decent portion of the country. In Yemen, ISIS is largely being ignored in favor of al-Qaeda and the war between the government and the Houthi rebels. In Egypt the government there seems reluctant to fight. And in Afghanistan and Pakistan ISIS is taking advantage of the chaos to gain a toehold there. 

The terror threat is still massive from ISIS. The terrorist group itself is a major threat all by itself. ISIS fighters have infiltrated Europe during the refugee crisis. The used the chaos and porous borders to send fighters in with the waves of migrants and are continuing to do so today. I am fully expecting another major terrorist attack in Europe, if not during Ramadan than before the end of the year. Expect another attack with a Paris style massacre being the worst case scenario and a Brussels attack probably being the best. 

Of course, the threat of lone wolves is just as bad. Both of the most recent attacks in the United States have involved lone wolves inspired by jihadist literature and videos online. The number of casualties in San Bernardino and the Orlando shooting shows how dangerous these threats are. Indeed, the Orlando attack had more casualties then many more complicated and sophisticated attacks from core ISIS. 

I think both of those cases were outlying results in terms of casualties but that doesn't mean that the more minor attacks, like the Ottawa Parliament shooting or the recent double homicide in France aren't threats as well. Even if most of the attackers are not going to be smart like Omar Mateen was, they will still manage to hurt people. Most attacks like these won't have happy endings like the Garland shooting in Texas. 

It's also very hard to combat the propaganda that is inspiring these attacks. Social media isn't doing much to stop ISIS videos and other propaganda on their networks but even if they did there are other ways to spread them. E-mail still exists and much of it is a lot more secure then Facebook and Twitter are. 

And there are going to be so many false negatives as well. Millions of people, many of who want nothing to do with ISIS or terrorism, view ISIS propaganda. I do all the time and I have no sympathy for ISIS at all. I just want to be informed and I need to know what ISIS is putting out for this blog. For every real radical Muslim that will be inspired to attack there will be hundreds or even thousands of people that watch ISIS propaganda for other reasons. It would be extremely hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. 

So what can be done to stop ISIS attacks? Well there are a few steps that could be taken on the battlefield. Cutting of ISIS in Iraq and Syria by taking away their control of the border area with Turkey would be a huge start. That would cut off base ISIS from Europe but would not end the threat. Stronger attacks on ISIS in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan would help as well.

But that doesn't help with the threat from the fighters already here and in Europe and the ones that will be inspired by ISIS propaganda. What will help there? Well we really need to make sure there aren't nearly as many "soft targets". Protecting gun rights here in America and expanding them in Europe would help. Failing that spending money and deploying police, security or even soldiers to areas would probably help as well. One thing is for sure, when you are under attack, you don't throw down your weapons... 

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