Former CIA and DIA operatives warn of another 9/11 attack
The United States could be facing another 9/11 attack as factions grow deeper among the Taliban, al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, especially with the recently confirmed death of the Taliban's one-eyed leader Mullah Omar, according to a senior U.S. lawmaker, federal law enforcement and intelligence officials.
The tensions between Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and the Taliban is as dangerous a national security threat to the United States as it was before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, said Brian Fairchild, who spent two decades with the CIA and has testified before Congress on terrorism.
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"Right now, al-Qaida, under Zawahiri, needs the Khorasan group or some affiliated group to attack the U.S. again like 9/11 in order to lift up his stature and that of the organization," Fairchild said. "He doesn't want something small but something big – a big-scale attack like 9/11 to make him relevant again. This is an extremely dangerous time as Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Taliban fight and compete for dominance."
See some of the most iconic photos from Sept. 11, 2001:
A 32-page Islamic State recruiting document obtained in Pakistan by American Media Institute detailed the growing division between the Islamic State group and al-Qaida. The document -- authenticated by retired Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and two other senior U.S. intelligence officers -- called for the Islamic State group to launch a war with India that would draw the United States into battle and end the world.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) also issued two threatening communications in August calling on believers to take action in the U.S. through more lone-wolf attacks, according to SITE Intelligence Group and Middle-East Research Institute, both of which track terror activity.
"Despite many years since 9/11, our enemies in the now Islamic State still see anniversaries as important times to stage attacks," Flynn said. "And regardless of how far away we get from the original attack against America in 2001, our need to remain vigilant on this coming anniversary is as high as it has ever been. We have had more than sufficient warnings from our FBI in the past few weeks and months. Our nation must never back down from these vicious murderers."
Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told AMI on Sept. 3, the threat emanating from terrorist organizations has evolved since 2001.
"Since the 9/11 attacks we've seen the spread of jihadi ideology and the vacuum created under failed states," McCaul said. "ISIS in Syria and Iraq is an example of that and the growth of the jihad movement has increased exponentially."
The threat, however, has changed, McCaul said.
"Islamic State has enormous reach through the Internet and its dark space that allows the group to conduct and plan operations," he said. "It is an area that leaves most of law enforcement and the intelligence community in the dark and its difficult, if not impossible, to combat...We call it terrorism gone viral. Bin Laden had cadres and couriers but with the Internet, they can radicalize thousands of fighters in a matter of minutes."
The issue of "foreign fighters returning and hitting the homeland, which is a similar concern our European allies are facing at the moment, is something we are deeply concerned about as well," he added.
Flynn explains that the failure to target the radical religious ideas behind the Islamic State group has given the terrorist group room to spread – not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world.
The threat of a "major war in South Asia goes beyond the scale that we have been dealing with in the wars we've fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. The likelihood of far more deadly weapons of mass destruction being applied certainly goes up," Flynn said.
Fairchild said that since 2001, U.S. policy to dismantle safe-havens for terrorist organizations has failed.
"If you look at the world today there are sanctuaries all across the world. ISIS and al-Qaida affiliates are all over the world, in Yemen, Sinai, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Africa to name a few. The very premise of our counterterrorism policy has failed and our domestic security is being directly threatened," he said.
Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron declined to comment on the current threats or the steps being taken by DHS to mitigate the threats.
Although the Islamic State group's recruiting document details the deep divisions within the jihadi terror groups, it also states its reverence for Mullah Omar, who had escaped on a motorcycle following a United States mission to capture him in Afghanistan in 2001 and refused to turn Osama bin Laden over to authorities.
Known as the Emir of the Afghan Taliban, Omar rose to power in 1995 and aided and harbored members of al-Qaida before and after Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He reportedly died in 2013, but his death remained a secret until July 29, when the Afghanistan government acknowledged his death just two days before peace talks between the terrorist groups were scheduled to begin.
See photos of Mullah Omar and reaction to his death:
"In the past, well before the attack on the World Trade Center, the Americans tried to bribe the Emir of the Muslims of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Mullah Muhammad Omar with wealth, power, and better relations with the anti-messianic global brotherhood in exchange for Sheikh Osama bin Laden," the document states. "After 9/11, when the U.S threatened to attack, the pious Emir of the Muslims of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan said, 'A momin's (one who believes in God) honor cannot allow him to hand over his momin brother to infidels, even at the cost of power; a momin's insurance is his faith which cannot be bargained.'"
Despite the apparent reverence for Omar, the Islamic State group wants to usurp the power in the region by encouraging al-Qaida's fighters to defect and join their movement, the document said.
A Taliban official told the American Media Institute that Islamic State group leadership in the region is struggling to build recruitment and that the Taliban is engaged in continued fighting with its members.
When asked how the Afghan Taliban views the Islamic State group compared to the U.S. and NATO, the official said, "yes, [Islamic State] is much worse than [U.S. and NATO] – they are like a cancerous cell within the jihadi groups."
"Mainly we have our alliances with al-Qaida and we host their core leadership in Afghanistan – we have support of Al Nusrah, AQAP and al-Shabab," the official says. "But only the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria is our sworn enemy. Taliban and al-Qaida has a single enemy among the Jihadi groups worldwide and that is the so-called Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, which is not according to Islam -- they are deviants."
U.S. Intelligence officials, who have direct knowledge of the region, said it is this competition between the various extremist groups has increased the threat to U.S. security both at home and abroad.
"Mullah Omar's death could present opportunities for other terrorist organizations to recruit disenchanted Taliban members; create splinter groups who may seek peace settlements with the Afghanistan government; or possibly incentivize the Taliban to continue its fighting efforts," a U.S. Intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.
The threat against U.S. assets, personnel overseas and the possibility of another 911 attack against the homeland "has increased since the rise of ISIL and intelligence agencies are monitoring it closely," the intelligence official added.
Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report
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