Rad­i­cal­iza­tion, not plots, de­fines Is­lamic State

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY CARLO MUNOZ AND GUY TAY­LOR

Last week’s Christ­mas mar­ket at­tack in Ber­lin was the lat­est in an in­creas­ingly low-tech ter­ror­ism cam­paign be­ing waged by the Is­lamic State and its sym­pa­thiz­ers who fa­vor butcher knives and trucks driven into crowds over sui­cide belts and booby-trapped cars — a tac­ti­cal shift that has con­founded Amer­i­can and Euro­pean coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cials.

While al Qaeda re­lied on sleeper cells in the U.S. and Europe to carry out its mis­sion, the Is­lamic State — the suc­ces­sor of al Qaeda in Iraq — has per­fected the art of self-rad­i­cal­iza­tion, ac­cord­ing to U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials.

In the past, al Qaeda sleeper cells had a semi-iden­ti­fi­able “de­mo­graphic pro­file” and main­tained “def­i­nite link­ages” to the group’s chain of com­mand that in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers could ex­ploit, said Nick Ras­mussen, chief of the Na­tional Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter.

The lack of such link­ages, es­pe­cially by “lone wolf” at­tack­ers who were in­spired by the Is­lamic State’s im­pres­sive on­line pro­pa­ganda op­er­a­tion, has opened up “a size and scale of the [U.S.] pop­u­la­tion” sus­cep­ti­ble to rad­i­cal­iza­tion, Mr. Ras­mussen said dur­ing a panel dis­cus­sion in an in­tel­li­gence sym­po­sium in Septem­ber.

Al Qaeda’s fo­cus on high-pro­file, 9/11style at­tacks takes im­mense amounts of plan­ning, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, fi­nanc­ing and co­or­di­na­tion, and comes with a high risk of fail­ure that U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have ex­ploited, said Michael Leiter, for­mer di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter.

Is­lamic State plan­ners re­al­ized they did not need to hi­jack a plane or plant a truck bomb in Times Square to be ef­fec­tive. A heavy truck or easy ac­cess to semi-au­to­matic weapons “is all you need” to carry out an at­tack, Mr. Leiter said dur­ing the same in­tel­li­gence panel dis­cus­sion.

In Ger­many, au­thor­i­ties are hunt­ing for Anis Amri, a 24-year old Tu­nisian sus­pected of car­ry­ing out the hor­rific truck at­tack on a bustling Christ­mas mar­ket in the heart of Ber­lin.

Tu­nisian anti-ter­ror­ism in­ves­ti­ga­tors


French sol­diers were on pa­trol at the Christ­mas mar­ket in Mar­seille last week af­ter a deadly at­tack in Ber­lin. The Is­lamic State is us­ing pro­pa­ganda to self-rad­i­cal­ize ter­ror­ists us­ing low-cost, high-im­pact re­sources such as trucks and knives.

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