Ex-CIA director: ‘IS affiliates multiplying faster than Al Qaeda’s ever did’
Groups allying themselves with Islamic State are breeding faster than Al Qaeda affiliates ever did, a former CIA boss told Congress following the latest attack in Turkey, which officials say was carried out by a bomber connected with the terrorist group.
Allegiance to Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL) has grown from “nothing” only a year ago to nearly 20 countries, President Barack Obama’s former CIA director Michael Morell testified at the House Armed Services Committee.
“ISIS has gained affiliates faster than Al Qaeda ever did,” Morell was cited by Breitbart as saying, as the dust continues to settle on the deadly blast that claimed 10 lives and wounded 15 people in the heart of Istanbul.
“They have conducted attacks that have already killed Americans and they carry the potential to themselves to grab large amounts of territory.”
IS is now “a significant strategic and lethal threat” to the United States and beyond, Morell said, as he reiterated calls to destroy the group, which no longer operates by its own former rules of keeping to its conquered territories of Syria and Iraq.
The ex-CIA director reiterated calls to degrade the group, or “they would succeed.”
Morell said that Libya could become the next IS hub. “Libya is a place where this could happen in the near term. ISIS controls territory in Libya,” he said.
“They are currently expanding that territory and foreign fighters are beginning to go to Libya to fight with the ISIS group there. I would not be surprise if we woke up one morning and ISIS in Libya had grabbed a large part of Libyan territory. The same kind of blitzkrieg on a smaller scale that we saw in Iraq,” he said, Defense News reported.
The issue of returnee jihadists has been plaguing Europe for some time, as hundreds more continue to join fighters in Syria, or are simply radicalized on home soil. The Paris attacks recently are testament to the horrifying prospect of a Europe in flames.
Evidence of such a spread are witnessed around Russia as well, most notably the North Caucasus region of Dagestan, where IS claimed responsibility for attacking a group of tourists in the run-up to New Year celebrations.
Earlier in December, the director of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Aleksandr Bortnikov, urged for tougher criminal punishment for anyone joining terrorist groups, including IS. “I deem it necessary that together with lawmakers we once again analyze the existing legislative base in order to make corrections… to tighten criminal responsibility for participation in terrorist activities,” Bortnikov said at a joint session of the Russian National Anti-Terror HQ and the Federal Operative HQ of the FSB.
Despite these warnings, and despite the Obama administration’s creation of a “narrative working group” to up the military strategy against IS abroad, the US president did not seem too disturbed by the specter of terrorism on US soil in November. Back then he had said there was "no specific and crediblethreat" to the US, upon receiving special national security briefings two days in a row about potential holiday terrorism threats by Islamic State.
A few days after Obama’s comments, a US Muslim couple opened fire at the Inland Resource Center in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and injuring a further 21.
Their commitment to the idea of jihad was all over the internet and was expressed on the husband’s Facebook page.