Islamic State will intensify its global terrorism campaign by directing as well as inspiring attacks in the U.S. and elsewhere, despite its mounting territorial and financial losses in Syria and Iraq, CIA Director John Brennan said.
The organization “will probably rely more on guerrilla tactics,” such as the attacks in Paris and Brussels in the past year that were directed by its leadership, Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee at a hearing on Thursday. It will also seek to inspire more attacks similar to those in San Bernardino, California, in December and in Orlando, Florida, this week, he said.
So far, there’s is no indication that Omar Mateen, who carried out the Orlando shooting, the worst massacre in modern U.S. history, had a direct link to Islamic State or any other foreign terrorist organization, Brennan said.
The Central Intelligence Agency chief’s stark assessment of the group’s intentions and capabilities contrasts with the Obama administration’s portrait of the group as being in decline because of increasing success in the the U.S.-led military campaign to retake territory that the group has claimed, and to cut off its oil income and other revenue.
“Despite our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach,” Brennan said, using an acronym for the group. “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.”
Islamic State has as many as 22,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq, down from about 32,000, Brennan said. However, its Libyan branch has become the most dangerous, with about 5,000 fighters, he said, adding that the Islamic State operation in the Sinai succeeded in bringing down a Russian airliner with an improvised explosive device.
“We judge that ISIL is training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks,” he said. “ISIL has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West.”