CIA Director John Brennan told Congress Islamic State is training terrorists to exploit legitimate travel means or refugee flows to infiltrate the West and conduct attacks.
“ISIL has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West,” Brennan said. ISIS will “probably rely more on guerrilla tactics, including high-profile attacks outside territory it holds,” and that the groups recent attacks demonstrate the “group’s ability to penetrate deep inside enemy strongholds.”
Brennan stressed that while ISIS is losing territory in Iraq and Syria, U.S. efforts to degrade the groups “have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach.” He speculated the group’s increasing encouragement of attacks in the West is a way for the terrorist group to distract followers from territorial losses. Brennan warned Congress ISIS is increasingly connecting affiliates in Libya, Afghanistan, and Egypt.
Even if ISIS loses all of its territory in Iraq and Syria, the group will still be able to mount significant attacks throughout the globe from one of its affiliates, Brennan said. As U.S. efforts to destroy the terrorist group inside Iraq and Syria intensify, the CIA believes efforts to attack the West will significantly increase.
The Soufan Group, a U.S. security firm that tracks foreign fighters, believes thousands of Western fighters have traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight for the terrorist group. These fighters could enter the U.S. without obtaining a visa under the visa waiver program granted to many European countries.
Beyond the threat of fighters traveling to the West, the CIA warned U.S. citizens who are ISIS sympathizers pose a significant threat to the U.S. homeland. Last month, senior ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammed Al-Adnani urged ISIS sympathizers to conduct attacks in their home countries. He especially encouraged sympathizers to attack civilian targets, saying, “Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military, for they have the same ruling
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