U.S.-led coalition efforts to shrink the territory the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) holds in Iraq and Syria have done nothing to address the jihadi group’s growing and deep-rooted influence in the region, which is expected to remain present for the foreseeable future, according to the CIA Director John Brennan.
During a national security summit on Thursday, Brennan stressed that ISIS’s influence “will remain a presence inside Iraq and Syria for quite a while” despite the significant territory losses the group has recently suffered, reports Voice of America (VOA).
The CIA director, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in June, provided a dire warning about ISIS’s growing influence, saying that U.S.-led air campaign against the terrorist group had not deterred its “terrorism capability and global reach,” reported Fox News.
He emphasized that ISIS’s influence and international reach was growing, noting that the jihadist organization’s global branches will likely help to maintain “its capacity for terrorism regardless of events in Iraq and Syria, adding, “In fact, as the pressure mounts on ISIL, we judge that it will intensify its global terror campaign to maintain its dominance of the global terrorism agenda.”
Referring to foreign jihadists who fought on behalf of ISIS in the Middle East and are now seeking to return to their home country, CIA Director Brennan noted Thursday, “While some of them may be rehabilitated and see they were on the wrong path, I do think a number of them will remain a challenge for the United States as well as for other governments for years to come.”
Various countries in the Western Hemisphere, including Canada and some nations in Latin America have expressed concern about “hundreds” of their citizens who have traveled to the Middle East as foreign fighters returning home radicalized by ISIS.
“When these foreign fighters return, they will possess operational experience, ties to global extremists, and possible intent to harm Western interests—and they will reside in a region rife with smuggling routes that lead directly and easily into the United States,” warned the U.S. military in March 2015.
In late July, FBI Director James Comey warned that defeating ISIS could lead to an increase in terrorist attacks in Western countries.
“Through the fingers of that crush are going to come hundreds of hardened killers who are not going to die on the battlefield, and they’re going to flow out.” proclaimed Comey, highlighting that to be able to anticipate the possible flow of foreign fighters into the West will require cooperation between various agencies and countries, something that he admitted can be difficult to execute.
Comey’s comments echo other analysts, including Iraqi Maj. Gen. Najm Abdullah al-Jubbouri, chief of the planned offensive to retake Mosul, who has said ISIS is prone to intensify its attacks when it is under pressure. The U.S.-led coalition and even forces loyal to the Russian and Iran-backed regime of Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad have seen some success against ISIS on the battlefield in recent weeks.
However, ISIS’s propaganda and other efforts to promulgate its Islamic extremist ideologies continue to grow stronger. The U.S. military and efforts by other countries have struggled to defang the ISIS ideology.
While ISIS territory is shrinking in its home base of Iraq and Syria, the jihadi group is expanding to various other countries in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, Central Asia, some European countries, as well as Latin America in the Western Hemisphere.
ISIS has expanded to at least eight countries and regions, including Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sinai, Nigeria, Algeria, the Caucuses, and Afghanistan-Pakistan, according to the Obama administration.
The group is also seeking to officially establish branches in the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Somalia where it already has a presence.
Last month, Emmanuel Khoshaba Youkhana, commander of the anti-ISIS Assyrian Christian commander of the army known as Dwekh Nawsha, told Breitbart News that he expects the U.S.-backed Iraqi military will push ISIS out of Mosul but warned that the terrorist group’s ideological influence will remain alive and a problem for the foreseeable future.