Beyond ISIS: Top 5 Terror Threats of 2016
Thu, December 31, 2015
Iranian-backed Hezbollah supporters (Photo: © Reuters)
The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has achieved media saturation through its bloody conquests and terrorist attacks by its ideologues in the West, but what other terrorist threats should be on our radar for next year? That's the question that Fox & Friends asked the Clarion Project's national security analyst and here is his written summary of the top five terror threats beyond ISIS for 2016:
The existence of non-Islamic terrorists sometimes leads to a misleading downplaying of the Islamist threat, but we should not deny that non-Islamic extremist threats exists. As someone who has provided specific intelligence to the authorities on both Islamic and non-Islamic terrorist threats, I would not be surprised to see a major attack committed by the latter next year.
A controversial study published earlier this year concluded that there have been 19 non-Islamic terrorist attacks inside the U.S. since 2001. A survey of 382 police and sheriff's departments found that three-fourths rated anti-government extremists as the top threat in their local area.
In March, there was an terrorist attack targeting TSA agents at a New Orleans airport, ending with the fatal shooting of the machete-wielding attacker. More recently, a man was arrested in California for planning to bomb a mosque (which is the kind of response that the Islamic State hopes for).
Deterioration of Afghanistan and Pakistan
The Taliban is growing back in Afghanistan, as is Al-Qaeda —but there are even more powerful Islamist terrorist groups harbored in Pakistan to watch out for (here's a list of 15). This includes groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (rebranded as Jamaat-ud-Dawa) and its massive infrastructure. There's also the Haqqani Network, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and radical Sufi Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, the leader of the cultish Muslims of the Americas that has a significant presence within the U.S.
The Iranian regime has increased its funding to Hezbollah and Hamas and Iran's "moderate" President Rouhani has increased the budget of the Revolutionary Guards Corps. Iranian-backed militias are vowing to strike Saudi Arabia and launch attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. And all of this is before Iran has begun really reaping the benefits of the nuclear deal.
"Moderate" Syrian Rebels
A study by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation concluded that 60% of the Syrian rebels are Islamist extremists who want to implement sharia governance and, even more frighteningly, one-third (or about 15 rebel groups) share the same brand of Islamist extremism as ISIS. That's about 65,000 jihadists immediately ready to succeed the Islamic State. Truly moderate Syrian rebels are very difficult to identify and support because they are either overpowered by our Islamist "allies" like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey or integrated as a minority within Islamist-majority coalitions.
Who Will Replaces the Islamic State?
Let's suppose everything goes our way and ISIS's rank depletes due to casualties and defeats that force its membership to realize that Allah isn't blessing the group. The doctrines that ISIS is based on won't go away if the group were to suddenly disappear. Its apocalyptic vision isn't part of some weird cult-like brainwashing; it's based in widely-accepted Islamic End Times prophecies.
The question becomes: Who fills the gap left by the Islamic State? It has provided a formula for success that other Islamist terrorists will follow and claim to have tweaked for Allah's approval. Al-Qaeda could make a comeback or a lesser-known group could make a name for itself, such as one of the Syrian groups mentioned above. Or it could be an entirely new group. We just don't know.
And that's why, if we exclude ISIS from the list of the top five terrorist threats in 2016, the number one threat is simply who rises from ISIS's ashes as it declines, just as ISIS did with Al-Qaeda. The threat isn't a specific group but the "known unknown" that follows its template.
We know that ISIS will have a successor as long as the foundational Islamism exists as a mainstream ideology. The "unknown" is what that entity will be. And this "known unknown" threat is the hardest one to prepare for.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.