WASHINGTON, DC — The American homeland is facing “the most frequent and unpredictable” Islamic terrorist threat from Sunni “U.S.-based homegrown violent extremists (HVEs),” warns the most recent Worldwide Threat Assessment issued by the United States intelligence community (IC).
“We assess that ISIS [Islamic State} maintains the intent and capability to direct, enable, assist, and inspire transnational attacks. The number of foreign fighters traveling to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria will probably continue to decline as potential recruits face increasing difficulties attempting to travel there,” states the assessment presented Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats during a hearing Thursday held by the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The number of ISIS foreign fighters leaving Iraq and Syria might increase, increasing departures would very likely prompt additional would-be fighters to look for new battlefields or return to their home countries to conduct or support external operations.”
The IC’s Worldwide Threat Assessment is consistent with a 2017 terrorism forecast by the House Homeland Security Committee showing that the rate at which Americans are being radicalized at home is “alarming.”
“There have been nearly 200 total homegrown jihadist cases in the United States since 9/11 (the figure currently stands at 193), a majority having taken place in just the past few years,” notes the report.
Many countries, including the United States, are concerned about the return of Americans who traveled to Iraq and Syria to engage in jihad on behalf of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), al-Qaeda (AQ), and other terrorist groups.
Last month, U.S. Department of Homeland Security John Kelly sounded the alarm on battled-hardened “holy warriors” who traveled to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria potentially returning to “wreak murderous havoc” in the United States and other countries once they return home.
In the past 12 months alone, the number of homegrown terrorism cases reached 36 in 18 U.S. states, revealed Kelly, noting, “Over the past few years, we’ve seen an unprecedented spike in homegrown terrorism.”
Echoing Secretary Kelly, the World Wide Threat Assessment, pointed out:
US-based homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) will remain the most frequent and unpredictable Sunni violent extremist threat to the US homeland. They will be spurred on by terrorist groups’ public calls to carry out attacks in the West. The threat of HVE attacks will persist, and some attacks will probably occur with little or no warning. In 2016, 16 HVEs were arrested, and three died in attacks against civilian soft targets.
Those detained were arrested for a variety of reasons, including attempting travel overseas for jihad and plotting attacks in the United States, in addition to the HVE threat, a small number of foreign- based Sunni violent extremist groups will also pose a threat to the US homeland and continue publishing multilingual propaganda that calls for attacks against US and Western interests in the US homeland and abroad.
In recent years, the Sunni Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) group has inspired many attacks inside and outside the United Sates, both successful and foiled.
The threat assessment explains:
The Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) continues to pose an active terrorist threat to the United States and its allies because of its ideological appeal, media presence, control of territory in Iraq and Syria, its branches and networks in other countries, and its proven ability to direct and inspire attacks against a wide range of targets around the world. However, territorial losses in Iraq and Syria and persistent counterterrorism operations against parts of its global network are degrading its strength and ability to exploit instability and societal discontent.
ISIS is unlikely to announce that it is ending its self declared caliphate even if it loses overt control of its de facto capitals in Mosul, Iraq and Al Raqqa, Syria and the majority of the populated areas it once controlled in Iraq and Syria.
Former FBI Director James Comey warned in July 2016 that the United States should remain vigilant against an unprecedented “terrorist diaspora” sparked by ISIS losing territory, particularly in the group’s so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS is not the only terrorist group that poses a threat to the United States. Al-Qaeda has capitalized on the U.S.-led coalition primarily focusing on decimating ISIS.
DNI Coats notes:
During the past 16 years, US and global counterterrorism (CT) partners have significantly reduced al- Qa’ida’s ability to carry out large-scale, mass casualty attacks, particularly against the US homeland. However, ai-Qa’ida and its affiliates remain a significant CT threat overseas as they remain focused on exploiting local and regional conflicts, in 2016, al-Nusrah Front and al-Qa’Ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) faced CT pressure in Syria and Yemen, respectively, but have preserved the resources, manpower, safe haven, local influence, and operational capabilities to continue to pose a threat.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, where U.S and NATO troops have been combating al-Qaeda since October 2001 in response to 9/11 the group still “maintain the intent to conduct attacks against the United States and the West.”