The impending collapse of the Islamic State will lead to a flood of hardened terrorists returning to their home countries in Europe and the U.S., the director of the FBI warned Tuesday.
“There will be a terrorist diaspora sometime in the next two to five years like we’ve never seen before,” FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs during his testimony.
U.S. and Iraqi forces, along with other members of Operation Inherent Resolve, have rolled back the ISIS “parent tumor” territory in Syria and Iraq in recent months, but that fact has not stopped the group from coordinating and inspiring terrorist attacks abroad. The U.S. fell victim to two such attacks Sept. 17, with a series of bombings rocking the New York metropolitan area and a knife attack on a mall in St. Paul, Minn.
New York bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami had at one time been investigated by the FBI, which failed to discover his terrorist motives, much to the surprise of Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
“What more do we need to do? What are the lessons learned, and if you need additional support, we need to know about it very quickly,” Ayotte told the witness panel, which included Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and National Counter-terrorism Center Director Nicholas Rassmussen.
Johnson warned the committee that the intricately planned and directed terrorist attacks like those of 9/11, are no longer the terrorist modus operandi. Instead, terrorist groups have moved “to a world that also includes the threat of terrorist-inspired attacks” by people in the U.S. who are “self-radicalized.”
Speaking at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington, D.C., Sept. 7, Rasmussen warned that the job of a terrorist is “getting easier” and more localized. He suggested countering localized terrorism will require “doing more to undermine the narrative” that group’s like ISIS promote.
“In all, Islamic extremist terrorists have killed 63 people on U.S. soil since our committee last held its annual hearing to consider threats to the homeland,” said committee chairman Sen. Ron Johnson in his prepared statement, noting “we have made little progress” under the Obama administration’s current ISIS policy.
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