US intelligence official says ISIS still below al-Qaeda’s strength

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.

2 Responses to US intelligence official says ISIS still below al-Qaeda’s strength

  1. “NCTC experts have come to the conclusion that the Islamic State does not currently pose a direct threat to America or Western Europe” – What planet do these NCTC experts live on?

    A poll by ICM Research (a reputable outfit) in July 2014 showed 15% of French citizens, 4% of German citizens and an estimated 7% of UK citizens aged 15 plus supported IS. Even if after the recent nauseating treatment dished out to US journalists this level of support fell by half you are still talking of millions of supporters in Europe alone.

    “NCTC experts … said that the risk of a “spectacular, al-Qaeda-style attack” on American or European targets is negligible”. IS already has enough materials and expertise to create dirty bombs that could shut down the world’s financial centers for weeks. They are also known to have stocks of materials for use in germ and chemical warfare. In terms of funds and assets, IS has more at its disposal than the estimated assets of all other “recognised” terror groups (including Hezbollah) combined. Again I ask what planet do these supposed experts live on?

    A major incident on European soil is expected by most European intelligence analysts before the end of the year.

  2. What is up with Olsen? This borders on delusional. Al Qaeda was never assessed by the intel community to have an Army of 10,000. ISIS is at least at that number. AQ was never assessed as having $500 million dollars. ISIS has at least that amount. Further, and more importantly, AQ never assembled the arsenal that ISIS has acquired by overrunning Iraqi military positions. The amount and quality of heavy weapons, RPGs, anti-tank weapons and man pads in the hands of ISIS is truly jaw-dropping. Adding to the concern is that ISIS is demonstrating the ability to conduct Brigade level maneuvers. [Edited in accordance with intelNews posting policies —IA].

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