The Islamic State group is planning more attacks
against the West in order to compensate for large territorial losses in
Syria and Iraq, CIA Director John Brennan told Congress on Thursday
In a wide-ranging statement before the
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Brennan additionally warned
that the Islamic State group has in place a large cadre of Western fighters who could
launch the attacks, and that the group also plans to augment its force
with smuggled-in reinforcements to help wage guerrilla-style assaults.
The U.S.-led Coalition has made
important progress against the Islamic State group on the battlefields of its self-declared
home turf, Brennan told senators. The Coalition has taken out key
battlefield leaders, he said, and is engaged in robust efforts to recapture ISIS-held cities such as Fallujah in Iraq and Manbij in Syria.
"Several notable indicators are trending in the right direction," Brennan said.
In addition to its battlefield progress, the
Coalition has managed to "squeeze" the Islamic State group's finance and
media operations, Brennan said.
Furthermore, he said, the Islamic State group appears to be
having trouble replacing fighters lost in-country. Fewer foreign
fighters are joining the force, and others appear eager to defect.
"The group appears to be a long way from
realizing the vision that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi laid out when he declared
the 'caliphate' two years ago in Mosul," Brennan said.
But, the CIA chief added, the Islamic State group is not down for the count.
The group is "a formidable, resilient, and
largely cohesive enemy, and we anticipate that the group will adjust its
strategy and tactics in an effort to regain momentum," Brennan said.
In coming months, he warned, the Islamic State group will probe its enemies for weakness, and exploit accordingly.
Prime targets are in the relatively unprotected West.
"We judge that (ISIS) is training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks," Brennan told the committee.
Attackers already are in place, with more in the pipeline.
"(ISIS) has a large cadre of Western
fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the
West," Brennan said. "And the group is probably exploring a variety of
means for infiltrating operatives into the West, including refugee
flows, smuggling routes and legitimate methods of travel."
Military officials also have expressed
concern over the Islamic State group employing guerrilla tactics to compensate
for territorial losses.
In a March 30
gathering, held in conjunction with Special Operations and Central
Command change-of-command ceremonies at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida,
defense leaders addressed the topic directly.
In response to a question from AMI Newswire,
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the Islamic State group had metastasized, and could
indeed be expected to strike out beyond the boundaries of Syria and
"Obviously, we are concerned about that," Carter said.
"The threat of external attacks is our
number one priority and our ability to disrupt that," echoed Gen.
Anthony Thomas, on his first day as the chief of U.S. Special Operations
Command. "So among the many threats out there, that is a clear focus
and effort on our part to disrupt any external threat."
Despite the gravity of the threat, Brennan today expressed optimism.
"Though this will be a long and difficult
fight," Brennan said, "there is broad agreement in the international
community on the seriousness of the threat, and on the need to meet it
collectively and decisively."