ISIS, the Islamist terror group that now controls much of Syria and Iraq, poses an “extremely high” terror threat to U.S. targets, and has the bomb-making skills and foreign fighters needed to strike U.S. and other Western interests, according to multiple U.S. intelligence officials.
“While trying to rank threats or compare them to previous threat periods is a hazardous endeavor,” said one former U.S. counterterrorism official, “the current threat coming out of ISIS — and Syria more broadly — is extremely high.” While the opposition in Syria and Iraq is diverse, said the official, there are “sub elements” within it that are “especially worrisome because of their commitment to attack the West.” Another senior counterterrorism official added that in recent weeks, “ISIS has accumulated tens of millions in wealth, large amounts of military equipment and ordnance, and has expanded the safe haven in which it operates.” During this same period, the number of potential U.S. targets in the region –- meaning U.S. military personnel — has increased. Both officials noted, however, that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is currently preoccupied with building an Islamic state across a broad swath of Iraq and Syria, not attacking the U.S. at home or abroad. “It’s not his focus right now,” said the second official, even though “al-Baghdadi’s rhetoric alone would suggest that he does have … international ambitions.” Read more
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