CIA Chief John Brennan on Thursday told a Senate Intelligence Committee that despite sustaining territorial losses, the Islamic State (IS) remains a formidable threat and is likely plotting attacks targeting Western countries.
“In fact, as the pressure mounts on ISIL, we judge that it will intensify its global terror campaign to maintain its dominance of the global terrorism agenda,” the CIA chief said, according to Foreign Policy.
Brennan warned that while there has been some success against IS “on the battlefield and in the financial realm,” the terrorist group remains a threat.
According to The Hill, the CIA chief revealed that the U.S.-led airstrikes have reduced the ranks of the terrorist group from 32,000 to about 22,000. But he also admitted that “resources needed for terrorism are very modest” and IS needs to suffer more losses for the strength of the group to be weakened significantly.
Brennan revealed that IS is likely training new recruits that will be deployed to stage attacks in the West. The CIA chief explained that the group has a large number of Western fighters in its ranks and is likely planning to send them to the West in various ways, including posing as refugees, Foreign Policy reported.
“To compensate for territorial losses, ISIL will probably rely more on guerilla tactics including high-profile attacks outside the territory it holds,” the CIA chief revealed, according to the BBC.
Brennan said that IS has called on its supporters to carry out “lone wolf” attacks in their home countries, CNBC reported. However, he maintained that the CIA has found no direct links between IS and Omar Mateen, the gunman who killed 50 people and injured 53 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12.
A source confirmed to People that the shooter pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi while speaking to a 911 operator on the phone during the attack. While the CIA has uncovered no evidence that Mateen had direct ties with IS, investigators are reportedly assessing whether the suspect had made contact with other terrorist groups.
IS has claimed to be behind the deadly Orlando shooting, describing Mateen as an “Islamic State fighter,” according to CNN. But investigators suspect that Mateen was self-radicalized.
During a press conference about the Orlando shooting on Monday, President Barack Obama dismissed claims that Mateen had been directed by IS to target the U.S. He described the incident as the result of “homegrown extremism.”
“It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet. All those materials are currently being searched, exploited so we will have a better sense of the pathway that the killer took in making the decision to launch this attack,” he said.
Brennan revealed that the CIA is attempting to stop the dissemination of IS propaganda used to radicalize potential recruits, The Hill reported.
This is not the first time that the CIA chief has warned about the threat that IS poses to the Western world. Earlier this year, in the wake of the Paris attacks, Brennan said it was “inevitable” that terrorists will attempt to mount attacks in the U.S., according to CNN.
Meanwhile, the CIA chief also told the Senate committee that IS appears to be attempting to introduce some coordination among its different factions across the globe, CNBC reported. Brennan revealed that the IS faction in Libya, which is said to include up to 8,000 fighters, could be the most dangerous. He expressed concern that the group is working to extend its influence in Africa.
According to the CIA chief, IS currently has more fighters than al-Qaeda had at its peak, BBC reported.
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