The United States faces a greater danger today from radical jihadi terrorism than it did before the 9/11 attacks, said the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. In a wide ranging and candid Yesterday, interview with Breaking Defense, retiring Defense Intelligence Agency chief Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn rang the alarm bells in an administration that has been trying to downplay the terror threat since 2009. Flynn, who had a reputation for being “disruptive,” says that there are more terror groups than ever before, they have more members, they hate the United States as much as ever and they are far better trained and equipped than they used to be.
[I]n 2004, there were 21 total Islamic terrorist groups spread out in 18 countries. Today, there are 41 Islamic terrorist groups spread out in 24 countries. A lot of these groups have the intention to attack Western interests, to include Western embassies and in some cases Western countries. Some have both the intention and some capability to attack the United States homeland.
For instance, we’re doing all we can to understand the outflow of foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq, many of them with Western passports, because another threat I’ve warned about is Islamic terrorists in Syria acquiring chemical or biological weapons. We know they are trying to get their hands on chemical weapons and use what they already have to create a chemical weapons capability.
How much trouble are we in?
Remember anthrax was used in 2001 [killing five people] and pretty much paralyzed Capitol Hill. If that anthrax had been dispersed more efficiently, it could have killed a quarter million people.
Those who want to downplay the terror threat are missing, says Flynn, the reality that the terrorists are doing everything they can to raise their game.
These various groups have learned from fighting the U.S. military for a decade, and they have created adaptive organizations as a means to survive. They write about and share ‘Lessons Learned’ all the time. That was something Bin Laden taught them before he died. These proliferating Islamic terrorist groups have also for years been developing connective tissue to each other and back to al-Qaeda senior leadership in Pakistan’s tribal regions. Some of those connections are pretty strong. We’re not talking bits and pieces or nascent connections.
Flynn warns that this isn’t a flash in the pan. We are facing some very dangerous long term trends:
I think we’re in a period of prolonged societal conflict that is pretty unprecedented. In the Middle East, we’re starting to see issues arise over boundaries that were drawn back in the post-colonial era following World War I. In some regions, we’re seeing the failure of the nation-state, and to some degree the disintegration of the [Westphalian] system of nation-states: Look at Libya, or Mali, or Nigeria. Because of a youth bulge, Nigeria will be the third most populated country on the planet in ten years, and [the Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group] Boko Haram is active in half of that country. Then look at what’s happening in Iraq and Syria.
What I see is a strategic landscape and boundaries on the global map changing right before our eyes. That change is being accelerated by the explosion of social media. And we in the intelligence community are trying to understand it all.
Flynn’s interview is a healthy corrective to the fatuous optimism that, until the world began to fall apart, was the standard boilerplate message from the White House and its ‘smart diplomacy’ chorus. Read the whole thing. The state of the world is not good, and the war on terror is not going well.