Experts Cast Doubt on Threat That ISIS Has 71 Trained Soldiers in 15 US States

This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf petro-powerhouses encouraged a flow of cash to Sunni rebels in Syria for years. But …
AP Photo/Militant Website, File

Some experts question the credibility of a threat alleging that the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has 71 trained jihadists inside the United States ready to attack.

Most experts believe the 71 figure is inaccurate and that the threat is only inspired by ISIS, not directly linked to the group, adding that it is an opportunistic attempt to instill fear and disseminate propaganda.

Nevertheless, they did not dismiss the possibility that some trained soldiers linked to ISIS are operating in the country. Some said the threat should be investigated and taken seriously but with a grain of salt.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack outside a “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, last Sunday, warning of more attacks and marking the first time the jihadist group has taken credit for an attack on U.S. soil.

Following the attack, an individual who claims to be linked to ISIS issued a threat, saying, “We have 71 trained soldiers in 15 different states ready at our word to attack any target we desire. Out of the 71 trained soldiers 23 have signed up for missions like Sunday.”

Breitbart News spoke to experts from various think tanks in Washington, D.C., asking them whether they consider the threat credible and the numbers accurate.

Only one believed the threat is credible, saying that whether the 71 trained fighters figure is accurate or not is irrelevant.

“The threat is credible absolutely. Whether or not it is directly controlled by the Islamic State is irrelevant,” said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and renewed foreign policy scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

“Whether or not it is controlled by the Islamic State, the fact that it is inspired by the Islamic State isn’t going to make any major difference,” he added. “Whether the order comes from Raqqa in Syria or simply inspired by it, it’s all to the same effect for the victims.”

Rubin did question the accuracy of the claim that ISIS has 71 trained soldiers operating in the U.S., but added that whether or not that is true does not matter.

“The issue is that the Islamic State is inspiring jihadists across the Middle East and, frankly, in the United States,” he explained.

Even if it is just propaganda, the threat should be taken seriously, concluded the AEI Middle East expert.

Air Force Lt. Col. Rudolph Atallah (Ret.), a former Pentagon counterterrorism official and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, says the threat should be taken with a grain of salt, adding that the threat amounts to nothing more than fear tactics and propaganda.

“So this guy is writing a threat,” he told Breitbart News. “Well, fine, you can threaten all you want, but is this truly real or is he acting on his own just to make a name for himself and get himself a little bit of glory? It’s honestly just a fear tactic.”

It is likely that the guy who wrote the threat is not communicating with ISIS, the retired colonel also said.

Col. Atallah accused the media of helping the ISIS propaganda machine, which is used to recruit new members by disseminating the threat as news.

Most experts did not share Rubin’s sentiment that the threat is believable.

“I look at it and I say I doubt it,” stated David Inserra, a research associate at the Heritage Foundation who handles homeland security issues. “I don’t think that it’s necessarily true.”

“ISIS’ claim of very concrete numbers of people who are directly working for them in the United States, I find that a little hard to believe,” he added. “If they did have folks in the United States at all, these folks aren’t probably directly connected to them.”

Inserra did say there is likely people in the U.S. who think of themselves as being members of ISIS.

Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and senior editor of The Long War Journal, said it is not possible to determine at this time whether the threat is credible.

“I would think that if the Islamic State had 71 operatives prepared to do missions, they would be carrying through with it,” he told Breitbart News. “Right now, they just alerted the world in this statement. To me, this statement sounds a lot like bluster, but there may be truth to it. You might have seven instead of 71. They obviously had two, or they claim that they were the two who attacked Garland, Texas.”

There were two jihadists involved in the terrorist attack in Texas. They were both shot dead by police before they were able to do any major damage.

Most experts agree that the government should investigate the threat.

The Center for American Progress and The Brookings Institution did not respond to requests for comment

Follow Edwin Mora on Twitter: @EdwinMora83.


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