Publication Date : Wednesday 28 September 2016 11:33
US intelligence and counterterrorism officials warn that the military campaign to rout Daesh in Iraq and Syria will create a “terrorist diaspora” in the West, putting the US in a period of “sustained vulnerability” for years to come.
"The so-called caliphate will be crushed," FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday. “The challenge will be that through the fingers of that crush will come hundreds of very dangerous people."
"There will be a terrorist diaspora some time in the next two to five years like we've never seen before."
US intelligence officials estimate that more than 40,000 foreign militants, including as many as 7,600 Westerners, have traveled to Syria and Iraq, with a majority of them joining the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group.
"When ISIL is reduced to an insurgency and those killers flow out, they will try to come to Western Europe and try to come here to kill innocent people," Comey said. "We must prepare ourselves."
The testimony echoed an emerging consensus within the US intelligence community about a looming diaspora of so-called foreign fighters looking to launch lone-wolf attacks in their homelands following the Daesh’s downfall.
“It’s not surprising. It puts us in a period of sustained vulnerability that I don’t think any of us are comfortable with, but it’s a reality,” Nicholas Rasmussen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the senators.
He said that defeating Daesh physically has been such a “first-order priority” for the US and its partners that there is “a lag” between territorial success on the battlefield and constraining the group’s ability to attack overseas.
“We don’t think battlefield or territorial losses alone will be sufficient to completely degrade the group’s terrorism capabilities,” Rasmussen noted.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson testified that his department was trying to understand a pattern of “terrorist-enabled attacks,” where perpetrators may draw on methods used by Daesh and other terror groups.
"The prospect of the next terrorist-inspired attack on our homeland is the thing that keeps us up at night," Johnson said.
The testimony came in the wake of the recent bombings in New Jersey and New York.