Declassified report shows US predictions of IS group threat

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US intelligence officers predicted two years in the past that the Islamic State group would doubtless regain a lot of its former energy and international affect, notably if American and different Western forces decreased their position in countering the extremist motion, in response to a newly declassified report.

Analysts mentioned many of the judgments within the 2020 report seem prescient immediately, notably because the group is resurgent in Afghanistan following President Joe Biden’s withdrawal of American forces final yr. The Islamic State group is now not controlling big swaths of territory or staging assaults within the United States because it did a number of years in the past earlier than a serious US-led offensive.

But it’s now slowly rebuilding some core capabilities in Iraq and Syria and more and more preventing native governments in locations together with Afghanistan, the place an affiliate of the IS group, additionally recognized by the acronym ISIS, is preventing the ruling Taliban following the US withdrawal.

“If the United States and our companions pull again or withdraw additional from areas the place ISIS is energetic, the group’s trajectory will more and more rely on native governments’ will and functionality to fill the ensuing safety voids,” says the report, initially printed in labeled kind in May 2020, months after then-President Donald Trump’s administration reached an settlement with the Taliban to tug out American troops.

Biden and prime nationwide safety officers have cited the current strike killing al-Qaida head Ayman al-Zawahri as proof that America maintains an “over-the-horizon” counterterrorism capability in Afghanistan after the withdrawal. U.S. particular forces additionally killed the pinnacle of the Islamic State group in a February raid in northwest Syria. “The truth of these operations are, I believe, reflective how critical this threat setting stays,” mentioned Christy Abizaid, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, on Thursday. But she added that analysts imagine the terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland is “much less acute than we’ve seen it” at any time because the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults.

Analysts have lately seen progress in IS group branches all over the world, notably in Africa, mentioned Abizaid, who spoke on the Intelligence and National Security Summit exterior Washington. “Afghanistan is a extremely attention-grabbing story alongside these traces about the place the ISIS affiliate is and the way we proceed to be involved about it,” she mentioned. Some exterior analysts say al-Zawahri’s obvious presence in downtown Kabul means that extremist teams are extra comfy working in Afghanistan — and that it will likely be harder to counter the Islamic State group because it grows throughout the nation.

Bruce Hoffman, senior fellow for counterterrorism on the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, referred to as the May 2020 report “very clear-eyed and forthright.” “It’s very totally different working in opposition to ISIS within the remoted mountain redoubts or deep valleys of Afghanistan,” he mentioned. “The benefits that enabled us to so brilliantly take out al-Zawahri, I’d guess, are absent exterior of Kabul.”

While the White House final month launched declassified factors from an intelligence evaluation saying al-Qaida had not reconstituted in Afghanistan, the factors didn’t tackle the Islamic State in Khorasan, the native IS group affiliate. IS-Okay was answerable for killing 13 U.S. troops exterior the Kabul airport through the withdrawal and has continued to mount an insurgency in opposition to the Taliban now in management of the nation. The National Security Council mentioned in an announcement that the U.S. is working to disclaim “ISIS-Okay entry to financing, disrupt and deter international terrorist fighters from reaching Afghanistan and the area, and counter ISIS-Okay’s violent extremism.”

The May 2020 report was declassified this August and printed online final week by the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The ODNI periodically declassifies and releases older intelligence assessments. A spokesperson for the ODNI’s National Counterterrorism Center declined to reply questions about the evaluation or tackle the intelligence neighborhood’s present view on the Islamic State group. The report predicts that the Islamic State group’s international branches are prone to improve its “functionality to conduct assaults in lots of areas of the world, together with the West.”

The U.S. would extra doubtless face assaults from individuals impressed by the group’s ideology than plots directed or supported by the group, the report mentioned. Pressure by native governments the place the IS group is energetic and their worldwide companions “nearly actually will form the scale of ISIS’ resurgence in Iraq and Syria and its growth worldwide,” the report mentioned.

Experts generally agree with the report’s predictions, mentioned Colin Clarke, an knowledgeable on counterterrorism who’s director of analysis for The Soufan Group, an intelligence and safety consultancy. But prime intelligence analysts would have been concerned in drafting and reviewing the evaluation, formally often called a nationwide intelligence estimate, he mentioned. Clarke famous a number of current IS-linked assaults in Afghanistan, together with an obvious suicide bombing exterior the Russian embassy in Kabul that killed two diplomats, in addition to ongoing preventing between militants and U.S.-backed forces at a sprawling camp in Syria. “There are some issues which have occurred in the previous few weeks,” he mentioned, “that make you surprise if the scenario just isn’t extra dire than is being introduced.”

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