Daesh, Al Qaeda and risk of a terrorism comeback


In his answers to questions at the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual hearing on the top threats to the nation this week, Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier rang the bell on the possible return of terrorist groups and particularly Al Qaeda and Daesh. In his statement below, just one month after the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul, Berrier warned that a revived Al Qaeda with aspirations to attack the United States could become a reality within three years.

The Lt. Gen. stated: “And I would say, based on what we know right now from the threat of Al Qaeda, they're trying to survive, basically without a real plan to at least or intend to attack the West anytime soon. And I would say that ISIS-K poses a bit of a larger threat, but they are under attack from the Taliban regime right now. And it's a matter of time before they may have the ability and intent to actually attack the West at this point.”

The increasing number of attacks that Daesh is conducting in Afghanistan and Pakistan could be an indication they are not suffering from the Taliban’s attacks, but in fact could suggest a real desire to diminish the authority of Taliban. These ongoing developments are related to Daesh primary targets in Kabul, which target Taliban personnel and sites, including religious and even educational institutions. They also suggest the group intends to diminish the authority of the Taliban by any means, going so far as to target foreign citizens in civic sites, hotels and companies.

It was expected that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan leaving the Taliban in power would be seen by many groups as a model to imitate, sending the message that if you are strong on the ground, you will be recognised as the single authority. There were impacts across the global terrorist scene as the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan paved the way for terrorist groups to coordinate and attack elsewhere. The increasing and more frequent attacks of Daesh in Syria and Iraq, and involvement with drug trafficking suggest they have intentions to resurface and leverage the regional situation and internal instability. 

This could see them moving from small scale operation to wider tactics, including dormant cells, lone wolves, or even more sophisticated operations so the group can send a message of their arrival to the world. There is a clear need for greater security cooperation and advanced collaboration among the region and globally to address this risk.

The US DIA evaluation should motivate countries to activate an international coalition to anticipate these growing risks and including criminal networks in the mandate of this anti-terrorism coalition. It is fundamental to focus on what is currently going on in Afghanistan as it could offer insights to anticipate the threats from Daesh in Africa to Al Qaeda in Yemen to Daesh reincarnations in Syria and Iraq.

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh