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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Annual IC Terrorism Threat Assessment: ‘Transnational RMVEs Continue to Pose the Most Lethal Threat’ to U.S.

ISIS has slowed its operational tempo relative to when it controlled physical territory from 2014–19, probably because of logistical, financial, personnel, and leadership shortfalls.

U.S. persons and interests at home and abroad will face a persistent and increasingly diverse threat from terrorism during the next year. Individuals and cells adhering to ideologies espoused by ISIS, al-Qa‘ida, or the transnational Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists (RMVE) movement pose a significant terrorist threat to U.S. persons, facilities, and interests. Iran and Lebanese Hizballah remain committed to conducting terrorist attacks and could seek to do so on U.S. soil. While ISIS and al-Qa‘ida suffered major leadership losses in 2022, degrading external operations and capabilities, both organizations’ offshoots continue to exploit local conflicts and broader political instability to make territorial and operational gains.

ISIS

Even following the loss of several key ISIS leaders in 2022, ISIS’s insurgency in Iraq and Syria will persist as the group seeks to rebuild capabilities and replenish its ranks. The threat from ISIS against U.S. persons, facilities, and interests probably will remain greatest in regions where the group has an operational presence. ISIS’s ideology and propaganda, however, almost certainly will continue to inspire attacks in the West, including in the United States.

  • In Iraq and Syria, ISIS has slowed its operational tempo relative to when it controlled physical territory from 2014–19, probably because of logistical, financial, personnel, and leadership shortfalls.
  • ISIS’s threat to U.S. persons and interests is greatest in regions where ISIS possesses a dangerous affiliate such as Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East.
  • In Afghanistan, ISIS–Khorasan will maintain its campaign against the Taliban and religious minorities with deadly repercussions for the country’s civilians. ISIS–Khorasan almost certainly retains the intent to conduct operations in the West and will continue efforts to attack outside Afghanistan.

Al-Qa‘ida

Al-Qa‘ida viewed the Taliban’s seizure of power as a victory for the global jihad, but the death of overall Emir Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2022 will disrupt the group’s plans in Afghanistan. The group will rely on its regional affiliates to sustain the organization as some al-Qa‘ida leaders seek to maintain safe haven in Iran while adapting to Taliban restrictions in Afghanistan.

  • Al-Qa‘ida probably will gauge its ability to operate in Afghanistan under Taliban restrictions and will focus on maintaining its safe haven before seeking to conduct or support external operations from Afghanistan.
  • The threat from al-Qa‘ida in Afghanistan will depend on the Taliban, the appeal of Afghanistan relative to other geographic areas, and leadership focus. Al-Qa‘ida remains committed to attacking U.S. interests, although the threat is greatest in the regions where its affiliates operate rather than in the U.S. homeland.

Al-Qa‘ida’s affiliates in East and West Africa and Yemen pose the greatest threat to U.S. persons, facilities, and interests in their respective regions. Affiliates’ confidence in their external attack capabilities, risk calculus, and perception of the threat that the United States poses to the groups’ local goals will influence the priority they place on attacking U.S. interests.

  • Al-Qa‘ida’s affiliates in Africa such as Al-Qa‘ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and alShabaab exploit instability in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and Mali, and weak border security in West Africa to expand territorial control and challenge local security forces.

Hizballah

Lebanese Hizballah will continue to develop its global terrorist capabilities as a complement to the group’s growing conventional military capabilities in the region.

  • Hizballah seeks to reduce U.S. influence in Lebanon and the broader Middle East, and maintains the capability to target U.S. persons and interests in the region, worldwide, and, to a lesser extent, in the United States. Iran could benefit strategically if Hizballah were to conduct terrorist activity on U.S. soil.

Transnational Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists

Transnational RMVEs continue to pose the most lethal threat to U.S. persons and interests, and a significant threat to a number of U.S. allies and partners through attacks and propaganda that espouses violence. Transnational RMVEs are largely a decentralized movement of adherents to an ideology that espouses the use of violence to advance white supremacy, neo-Nazism, and other exclusionary cultural-nationalist beliefs. These actors increasingly seek to sow social divisions, support fascist-style governments, and attack government institutions. The transnational and loose structure of RMVE organizations challenges local security services and creates a resilience against disruptions.

  • Transnational RMVEs capitalize on societal and political hyperpolarization to try to legitimatize their aims and mainstream their narratives and conspiracy theories into the public discourse. These RMVEs believe that recruiting military members will help them organize cells for attacks against minorities or institutions that oppose their ideology.
  • Transnational RMVEs have plotted attacks and encouraged violence against government officials in Australia and throughout Europe, including in Belgium, France, Germany, and Iceland. Transnational RMVEs often call for attacks in the United States and allied countries, and some RMVE attacks in the United States have been partly inspired by foreign RMVE attacks overseas and transnational RMVE narratives, but we lack information that foreign RMVEs directly assisted any attacks in the United States.
  • Terrorgram, a loosely connected network of channels on the messaging application Telegram, has circumvented multiple efforts to moderate content. Terrorgram serves as a transnational forum for RMVEs to share propaganda, exchange operational guidance, and valorize the perpetrators of previous terrorist attacks.

A prolonged conflict in Ukraine could provide foreign RMVEs with opportunities to gain access to battlefield experience and weapons. Ukraine featured heavily in online discussions among foreign RMVEs in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, although the total number of foreign violent extremists traveling to Ukraine has been limited.

Read the Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community at ODNI

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Homeland Security Today
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.
Homeland Security Today
Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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