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ISIS has eclipsed al Qaeda: US

Barack Obama

Washington : The Islamic State poses risks not seen or experienced before, a top aide of President Barack Obama said, underlining that the dreaded militant group has overshadowed al-Qaeda as the principal terrorist threat.

“Originally an outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq, in the past two years ISIL has eclipsed core al Qaeda as the principal terrorist threat we face. The world has been shocked by the butchery and depravity of these twisted fanatics,” said Lisa O Monaco, assistant to the US President for Homeland Security and Counter terrorism.

From their stronghold in Raqqa, Syria, ISIS has displayed an apocalyptic ambition and an unprecedented brutality, she said in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations, a top American think-tank.

“They crucify victims and burn alive others. They enslave women and children, and teach that rape is an expression of God’s will. They behead innocents and broadcast their barbarism to the world,” she said.

“But it’s not only ISIS’s unconscionable brutality that troubles us. What keeps me up at night is that this threat is unlike what we’ve seen before,” Monaco said.

Al Qaeda focused on launching catastrophic attacks against the West—the “far enemy”.

They used the Internet to post grainy videos and propaganda in PDF form. ISIS is very different.

“A recent report on ISIS was subtitled, From Retweets to Raqqa — and that, I think, underscores the scale of our challenge. These fanatics are online and on the ground,” she said.

They are terrorists, insurgents, and bureaucrats, attempting to control a territory that was at one point larger than the UK. ISIS supporters have shown an ability to engineer high-profile attacks, like blowing up a Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula, she added.

“But they also direct foreign fighters to attack soft targets, as they did in Paris. They have deployed crude but deadly chemical weapons, which pose an imminent threat to Syrians and Iraqis. And through their use of social media, ISIL has distributed the threat globally. They can inspire sympathisers and adherents anywhere, turning lost souls into soulless killers—whether in Bangladesh or San Bernardino,” Monaco said.

“But, even as we focus on ISIL, we cannot take our eye off al Qaeda, its affiliates, and its adherents. From North Africa to South Asia, their desire to strike at American interests and citizens warrants our continued vigilance,” Monaco said.

The most active of these affiliates remains al Qaeda i the Arabian Peninsula, which has attempted to attack the United States multiple times—though American airstrikes and international pressure have thwarted AQAP’s external plots and targeted its leadership, she said.

Monaco said taken together, these threats are a toxic brew.

“And the different threat ISIL poses, in particular, is not a danger we can ignore or underestimate. This is not an entity we can accommodate. So I’ll say it again: today, ISIL in all its manifestations—insurgent army, foreign fighter magnet, social media phenomenon, external operations cadre—is the principal counterterrorism threat we face as a nation,” she said.

“We’ve hunted down their leaders, including Osama bin Laden and many others. Core al Qaeda as we knew it 15 years ago has been decimated. Al Qaeda’s remaining leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan spend more time plotting how to survive than plotting attacks. And we will not let up our relentless pressure,” Monaco said.

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