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Threats from terrorism will continue to challenge the United States. This, according to U.S. counterterrorism analysts
In a recent congressional testimony, James Clapper, Director of national intelligence, said terrorism trend lines are worse “than at any other point in history.” Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata, commander of U.S. Special Operations forces in the Middle East, also spoke to the participants and elaborated on his counterterrorism strategy. Maj. Gen. Nagata said he considers the Islamic State (ISIS) a greater menace than al-Qaeda has ever been.
Recently, Michael Morell, the former deputy director of the CIA, told audiences at a New York police terrorism conference that he doubts his generation would live to see the end of al-Qaeda and its offshoots. “This is long term,” he said. “My children’s generation and my grandchildren’s generation will still be fighting this fight.”
According to Home Land Security News Wire, this attitude contrasts with the feelings most Americans had after the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011 and the dawn of the Arab Spring. Initially, both Bin Laden’s removal and the political upheavals throughout the Middle East were seen as the first steps in a path toward democracy in the region.
For U.S. security officials, those optimistic views have evaporated. This, even as some note that counterterrorism work thrives on pessimism and involves planning for worst-case scenarios.
The Tampa Bay Times notes that among the reasons for alarm shared in intelligence circles, are the growth of the Islamic State; the influx of foreign fighters with Western passports joining militant groups; the deteriorating security conditions in Libya, and the fall of the U.S.-backed government in Yemen. It should be noted that these recent events could turn both countries into havens for radical Islamist groups. Another case in point is the recent announcement by Boko Haram of its allegiance to ISIS.
Still, some voices in the intelligence community are more optimistic, claiming the concern over terrorism is overblown. They say that today’s terror groups are more focused on securing territory than launching transnational plots. ISIS is primarily occupied with spreading its influence throughout the Middle East as it acquires more land in Syria and Iraq. Boko Haram, conversely, seeks to establish a caliphate in Nigeria.