Contrary to President Obama’s more upbeat assessment of ISIS earlier this week—that we’re ‘making significant progress’ in the fight against the terror group and that they’re ‘under more pressure than ever before’—CIA Director John Brennan gave a more stark account of the group’s abilities and influence.
Despite efforts by the U.S. and its allies to strike the terror group, its “terrorism capability and global reach” have not been hampered, he said at a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
"We judge that ISIL is training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks. ISIL has a large cadre of western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West. The group is probably exploring a variety of means for infiltrating operatives into the West, including in refugee flows, smuggling routes and legitimate methods of travel," Brennan added.
Brennen echoed the president in detailing the group’s territorial losses in Iraq and Syria. He said they’re struggling to replenish fighters and getting squeezed financially.
However, he said ISIS is “resilient” and likely will adapt, and warned coalition gains in Iraq and Syria are not blunting its capacity to carry out deadly operations abroad.
"Unfortunately, despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group's terrorism capability and global reach,” he said. “The group's foreign branches and global networks can help preserve its capacity for terrorism regardless of events in Iraq and Syria. In fact, as the pressure mounts on ISIL, we judge that it will intensify its global terror campaign to maintain its dominance of the global terrorism agenda.”
He also noted that the number of ISIS fighters is now greater than al Qaeda’s at its peak. “We’re talking about tens of thousands of individuals,” he said.
Moreover, the Orlando attack demonstrates that they’re still working to inspire sympathizers with no direct links to the group to carry out attacks, he told lawmakers.