An intelligence official warned Thursday that the terrorist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria “sees conflict with the U.S. as inevitable,” The Washington Post’s David Ignatius reported in his latest column.
The columnist, known for his extensive sourcing in the intelligence community, summarized an intelligence briefing he attended:
In a briefing for journalists Thursday, a panel of five U.S. intelligence officials summed up their assessment of an organization that has shown a remarkable durability because it is “patient,” “well-organized,” “opportunistic” and “flexible.” Under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group has rebounded from about 1,500 fighters in 2010 to more than 10,000 today — becoming a global jihadist organization that communicates in many languages.
“We don’t assess this as something that will collapse on its own,” said one of the officials, who commented based on an agreement that their remarks would not be attributed. “But with pressure and alternatives [that might draw away its Sunni supporters], it could collapse over time.” The intelligence experts cautioned that counterterrorist tools, such as drone strikes and other air attacks, wouldn’t be sufficient “to defeat it rather than just ratchet it back.”
The officials expressed skepticism that Baghdadi could be deterred from striking the United States by the threat of pulverizing attacks. “We assess that the group sees conflict with the U.S. as inevitable,” said one official.
Last week, President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS to halt the terror group’s advance on the Kurdish city of Erbil.
But beyond the current conflict between ISIS and the American military in Iraq, members of the terror group have repeatedly threatened to attack the United States. VICE Media’s Medyan Dairieh recently spent three weeks in the ISIS-controlled Syrian city of Raqqa, which the terror group has proclaimed the capital of its newly declared Islamic caliphate. In his interviews with ISIS members, they warned about future attacks against the U.S. (WATCH: ISIS Members Threaten To Attack America)
“I say to America that the Islamic Caliphate has been established,” Abu Mosa, a spokesman for ISIS, told VICE Media in one interview. “We will humiliate them everywhere, God willing, and we will raise the flag of Allah in the White House.”
“I swear to Allah we will divide America in two,” a child who looked like he had not yet reached his teens declared to VICE Media in another interview, speaking as if he was already a member of the terror group. “And we’ll destroy the enemies of the religion all of them, all who fight the Islamic State.”
VICE Media also captured a group of ISIS fighters singing about how they’ve already destroyed America and Europe. (WATCH: ISIS Crucifies An Alleged Murderer)
“We have broken America in two and we’ve annihilated the countries of Europe,” the terrorists sang.
Ignatius reported that another official at the briefing he attended warned: “Some of them are going home, with or without orders, to start cells.”