US intelligence official says ISIS still below al-Qaeda’s strength
September 4, 2014 2 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Despite the rapid rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East, the strength of the young organization is still not comparable to that of al-Qaeda, which remains the world’s dominant Islamist group, according to the United States’ most senior counterterrorism official. This was the view expressed on Wednesday by Matthew Olsen, Director of the US National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), who is preparing to step down later this year. Based in McLean, Virginia, the NCTC is the part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that advises the US government about terrorism. Olsen said there is no doubt that the Islamic State —also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS— has made “dramatic territorial gains in Syria and Iraq” and is displaying unmatched abilities in utilizing online social networking platforms to spread propaganda. Additionally, an increasing number of Muslim extremists view the Islamic State as “the new leader in the global jihadist movement”, said Olsen. But he added that NCTC experts have come to the conclusion that the Islamic State does not currently pose a direct threat to America or Western Europe, and said that the risk of a “spectacular, al-Qaeda-style attack” on American or European targets is negligible. America’s senior terrorism advisor went on to claim that al-Qaeda remains a more serious adversary for American interests than the Islamic State, and that the new organization is “significantly more limited than al-Qaeda was in the run-up to 9/11”, at which time it maintained underground cells across Europe and the US. Olsen continued by saying that there was “simply no credible information” that the Islamic State was planning to attack US targets anywhere outside the immediate surroundings of its territorial stronghold in Iraq and Syria. He went on to say that there is “no credible information that [the Islamic State] is planning to attack the United States” in an organized fashion, nor is there any “indication […] of a cell of foreign fighters operating in the United States”. The departing NCTC director cautioned that Islamic State fighters from Western countries returning home might be tempted to commit terrorist attacks, but these were likely to take the form of lone-wolf actions, rather than more sophisticated operations —“nothing like a 9/11 kind of attack”, he said.