We felt good that we killed Osama bin Laden and seemed to have defeated al-Qaeda. But they were nothing compared to the resurgent jihadist army of the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS, most recently calling themselves ISIL, for “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”). They are armed to the teeth with American weapons and other equipment that had been abandoned in Iraq. And they have vast wealth from looting banks and taking over oil fields. And their ambitions are to strike the United States and other Western countries. That’s not much of a progress report in our War on Terrorism.
U.S. counterterrorism officials have dramatically ramped up their warnings about the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), concluding that the well-armed group is expanding its ambitions outside the Middle East and may be planning terror attacks against western Europe — and even the U.S. homeland.
ISIL’s conquest of vast swaths of Iraqi territory this spring and summer netted it a “significant” arsenal of U.S. weapons from two Iraqi military bases, including hundreds of tanks, heavily armored Humvees, assault rifles, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, officials say. One U.S official tells Yahoo News ISIL is now considered “the most potent military force” of any terrorist group in the world.
Led by its charismatic chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the radical Islamist group is looking beyond its short-term goal of overthrowing the Iraqi and Syrian governments and replacing them with a self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate. “We’re seeing an expansion of its external terrorist ambitions,” one U.S. counterterrorism official said in a briefing for reporters Thursday. “As its capabilities grow, it has attracted thousands of foreign extremists — some of whom are going home to start cells. As it carves out territory [in Iraq], it wants to go beyond that and do attacks outside. ” U.S. counterterrorism agencies had put the number of ISIL fighters at about 10,000, but that figure is now being reassessed and is likely to be raised, officials say. . . .Concerns about terrorism spilling over from Syria and Iraq hit home in June when French police arrested an “armed jihadi” who had just returned from Syria in connection with the May 24 killing of four people — including two Israeli tourists — at a Jewish Center in Brussels.
Since then, authorities in Europe have broken up terror cells linked to ISIL, including one in Kosovo where officials this week arrested 40 suspects who had returned from Iraq and Syria—including some who had fought with ISIL — and seized weapons and explosives in dozens of locations. . . .
One thing ISIL does not lack is funds. The group has seized banks, accumulating vast amounts of cash and raking in more by selling oil and other commodities to smugglers. ISIL “is flush with cash. It has plenty of money. They control oil fields, they have refiners. They have hundreds of millions of dollars,” said one U.S. analyst at the Thursday briefing.
And it is exceptionally well armed. When ISIL forces assaulted two Iraqi military bases, Camp Speicher and Rasheed Air Base, in July, they got the keys to the kingdom — hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of American tanks, armored personal carriers, howitzers and other equipment. ISIL fighters have posed for videos brandishing MANPADS, shoulder-launched surface to air missiles that can shoot down low-flying aircraft.
“They’ve got enough supplies, equipment and ammunition to last them five years,” said John Maguire, a former top CIA officer in Iraq who retains close ties to the Kurdish regional government. Thanks in part to assistance from former Iraqi military officers who have defected to ISIL, “they know how to operate American equipment.”
HT: Paul McCain
They have just beheaded an American journalist and say they will do the same to another.
One could argue that our invasion of Iraq spawned this crew, but is it evident that once we were there, we left too soon?