House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) has released the monthly Terror Threat Snapshot for April. The “snapshot” is an assessment of threats against the United States and the West by ISIS and other terrorist organizations. This month’s report shows that violence by Islamist extremists is on the rise.
“The alarming rise of Islamist extremists has spawned a deadly terror campaign across the globe,” McCaul stated. “Sadly, we again have seen the resulting carnage recently in Brussels, Jerusalem, and Kabul. Our enemies are continuing to exploit growing instability and the retreat of American leadership.”
McCaul continued, “ISIS terror operatives have deployed from their Syrian safe havens and exploited security gaps to infiltrate and infest Europe. Al Qaeda thrives amidst the war in Yemen, methodically carving out greater sanctuary. The Iranian regime, empowered by a dangerous nuclear deal, grows increasingly belligerent as it tries to extract more undeserved economic concessions. Reversing this dangerous course remains an urgent imperative for homeland security and for our broader interests around the world.”
The key takeaways in this month’s report include:
Islamic State: ISIS and its supporters pose an increasingly dangerous threat to the United States and its allies. The terrorist organization has exploited numerous sanctuaries throughout the Middle East and parts of North Africa.
ISIS’ campaign has included 83 plots to attack Western targets since 2014, with at least two dozen ISIS-linked plots in the US alone. So far authorities have arrested over 80 ISIS affiliated suspects, many of whom were self-radicalized. Most recently, ISIS has been able to exploit gaps in security in Brussels, Jerusalem, and Kabul.
Homegrown Islamist Extremism: Since September 11, 2001, there have been at least 150 instances involving homegrown terrorist plots within US borders. This includes attempts to join terrorist cells overseas. Approximately 85 percent of these cases have happened after 2009.
Foreign Fighters: There has been a surge of almost 40,000 jihadists from over 120 countries coming into Syria and Iraq in support of ISIS since 2012. At least 6,900 Westerners are among these fighters; around 250 of them traveled from the United States. More than 1,000 European fighters have already returned from Syria to four countries – the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Belgium.
Al Qaeda: The threat posed by Al Qaeda should not be downplayed, even in the wake of ISIS’s recent attacks on the West. The group remains a sophisticated and experienced threat. It is reasonable to assume that they are eager to make a prolific comeback since the demise of their leader Osama Bin Laden. With many of the West’s resources geared toward combating ISIS, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the group has been able to regain strength and numbers in the absence of a significant counterterrorism effort against them. American military officials have expressed concern over Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, indicating that the group’s presence may be underestimated. Moreover, Brigadier General Charles Cleveland recently warned that Al Qaeda “will very likely be working more closely with the Taliban as we move forward.”
Iranian Terror Threat: Iran has made several attempts to smuggle weapons into Yemen this past month, including AK-47s, sniper rifles, RPG launchers, and anti-tank missiles. This follows Iran’s kidnapping of American sailors, an illicit ballistic missile test, and continued aggression in Syria and towards Israel. In the most notable incident, seven Iranians, directed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, were recently charged by the Department of Justice for their campaign of cyberattacks against American financial institutions and critical infrastructure.
Guantanamo Bay: A recent assessment from the Director of National Intelligence revealed that almost 18 percent of former Guantanamo Bay detainees have reengaged in jihad since being freed between January 22, 2009 and January 15, 2015. Another 10.7 percent are strongly suspected of having reengaged, for a total of nearly 30 percent.
The Obama Administration released 27 terrorists from Guantanamo Bay in 2016, leaving 80 at the facility.