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US Counterterror Chief Olsen: “ISIL is not invincible”

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By Stefan Grobe
US Counterterror Chief Olsen: “ISIL is not invincible”

<p>Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria pose a “multi-faceted threat” to the West but are “not invincible,” as US air strikes have exposed their weaknesses, a top US intelligence official said Wednesday.</p> <p>Matthew Olsen, director of the US National Counterterrorism Center, said there is no “credible information” that <span class="caps">ISIL</span> fighters are plotting an imminent 9/11-style attack on the United States.</p> <p>However, Olsen, speaking at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, refused to answer a reporter’s question about a potential “Minneapolis cell” that could act as sleepers in the US homeland.</p> <p>At least 15 young men from the Somali-American community of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in the northern state of Minnesota had traveled to Syria to join <span class="caps">ISIL</span>, according to local news reports. US investigators estimate the total number of Americans to have made that trip for that purpose to be 100.</p> <p>The <span class="caps">FBI</span> had arrested “more than half a dozen” people seeking to travel from the US to Syria to support <span class="caps">ISIL</span>, Olsen said.</p> <p>He described <span class="caps">ISIL</span> as an “extremely dangerous organization” operating in a “chaotic part of the world”. Whereas <span class="caps">ISIL</span> fighters in 2012 committed between five and ten suicide attacks per month, they have now increased those attacks to 30 to 40 per month in addition to “horrific acts of violence” perpetrated against innocent civilians.</p> <p>Olsen laid out a detailed assessment of the jihadists’ strength, saying the group takes in $1 million (1.3 million euros) a day from oil sales, ransoms, and smuggling.</p> <p>The rise of <span class="caps">ISIL</span> can be viewed as a transformation of the global jihadist movement of which <span class="caps">ISIL</span> sees itself as the new leader, exploiting failed states and the lack of functioning governments, backing or orchestrating eleven insurgencies in the Islamic world, Olsen said.</p> <p>By doing this, <span class="caps">ISIL</span> employs a sophisticated propaganda machine and making maximum use of social media, Olsen said.</p> <p><span class="caps">ISIL</span> terrorists also changed the way they communicate among themselves, avoiding electronic devices whenever possible, which makes it harder for the western intelligence community to track them and hunt them down, according to Olsen.</p> <p>Nevertheless, “we have a good sense” of who ISIL’s shadowy leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi really is, Olsen said without elaborating.</p> <p>“No terrorist group is invincible,” he added, “and we have the tools to defeat <span class="caps">ISIL</span>.”</p> <p>Olsen estimated that the more than 120 US air strikes so far have been successful and have considerably damaged the jihadist infrastructure.</p> <p>Echoing US President Barack Obama, Olsen said that there is “no purely military solution” against <span class="caps">ISIL</span>. </p> <p>What is necessary is a broad-based comprehensive strategy of a “global coalition” that will ultimately be able to degrade the jihadists and support the moderate Syrian opposition as well as an inclusive Iraqi government, Olsen said.</p> <p><strong>Brookings Video: Threat Assessment of <span class="caps">ISIL</span> and Al Qaeda in Iraq, Syria and Beyond</strong></p> <p><iframe width="600" height="338" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/O_9_VPzCCfM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p>