states of america

states of america

How Dangerous is ISIS

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As the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continues to sweep through northern Iraq, U.S. lawmakers are sounding the alarm that it could be just as dangerous as al Qaeda in the days before it launched the September 11 attacks on the United States. "Every day that goes by, ISIS ... becomes a direct threat to the United States of America. They are more powerful now than al Qaeda was on 9/11," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said on NBC's "Meet the Press". Experts say the Islamic jihadist group has indeed been able to accomplish an enormous amount in a short period of time. And in global reach, fundraising capabilities and pure operational ability, they are certainly outpacing Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda. "Al Qaeda in the pre-Sept. 11 phase was capable of engaging in strikes and bombings," Tom Sanderson, a terrorism expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But what ISIS has now, he said, "is more significant and more varied than what al Qaeda had in terms of its actual combat capabilities where they are fielding artillery. They are holding much greater territory than al Qaeda had, they are governing people, they have a more diverse funding base... they have a greater localized funding base than al Qaeda." The group is in fact a rival faction to modern-day al Qaeda, whose general command cut ISIS off from its network in February because it disobeyed orders from leader Ayman al-Zawahri. Al Qaeda "simply did not have the technology that ISIS has now, the social networking that enables them to reach a much greater audience," Sanderson said. Still, big does not always mean organized. Juan Zarate said that ISIS is probably less well-organized than pre-9/11 al Qaeda, which spent years meticulously training and plotting to attack the United States. And Sanderson said the surprise element of its attack on the United States was part of what made the group so lethal. But ISIS could also be benefiting from the years of groundwork laid by its predecessor-turned-rival. "ISIS, especially with the announcement of the Islamic State, is piggybacking off of the global networks and inspiration that al Qaeda fomented post-9/11 and give them, in some ways, a global infrastructure on which to build. It's not as if they're starting from scratch," said Zarate. One of the group's biggest advantages over al Qaeda is the fact that it has seized a vast swath of territory and virtually erased the border between Iraq and Syria. Unlike al Qaeda, "in some ways...rented from the Taliban in Afghanistan," Zarate said, ISIS has gained strength from the territory it occupies. "In the 21st century any operating room for a terrorist group is a prescription for disaster because they have the ability not just to build up their local strength but to allow themselves global reach," he added. Plus, ISIS has captured millions of dollars of American weaponry abandoned by Iraqi troops that fled the fight early on in the jihadist group's takeover.