While the Islamic State has engaged the United States and its Western partners in a protracted war in Iraq and Syria, al Qaeda has been quietly rebuilding its capacity to strike America, several terrorism experts testified Tuesday.

Officials predicted that al Qaeda’s resilience in the Middle East will only escalate amid ISIS’s ongoing territorial setbacks, creating the conditions for a merger of the two terrorist groups voluntarily or through force.

Bruce Hoffman, director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, warned that any type of cooperation between the two groups would escalate the threat of terrorism worldwide, particularly in western Europe and the United States.

“Al Qaeda’s presence in Syria should be regarded as just as dangerous and even more pernicious than that of ISIS,” Hoffman testified before the House Armed Services Committee.

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