James Foley Islamic StateThis weekend I met up for breakfast with a friend. He asked me to sum up my thoughts on the Islamic State group. Like most Americans, he’s a busy guy. He’s running around trying to grow a business and he doesn’t have time to be researching radical Islamic terrorist organizations. The short answer to the question, “Should we be concerned?” is “Yes.”

The succinct version of what I told my friend over blueberry waffles is this: The Islamic State group is well-organized, well-funded, and it is training Americans and Europeans on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq. At this point the absence of a terrorist attack seems to be more of a strategic decision on its leadership’s part than on an inability to make it happen.

Below are excerpts from four recent news stories that highlight my point:

Cicero Magazine reported Feb. 4:

ISIS is officially the richest terrorist group in existence. Through its illicit oil sales–worth between $1 million and $2 million a day—as well as kidnapping and extortion networks, robbery, front companies, racketeering, and outside donations, the group has amassed a $2 billion fortune.

Fox News reported Feb. 7:

Six Bosnian natives who immigrated to the U.S. sent money and military equipment to support Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State terror group, the Justice Department said Friday night.

The suspects sent multiple payments using PayPal, as well as U.S. military uniforms, combat boots, tactical clothing and gear, military surplus goods, firearms accessories, rifle scopes and first aid supplies to Turkey.

ABC News reported Feb. 8:

The retired Marine Corps general at the forefront of the U.S.-led coalition in the fight against ISIS told ABC News in an exclusive interview that the terror group “is at an entirely different level than al Qaeda was.”

ISIS is “better organized [than al Qaeda]. It’s command and control is better,” John Allen, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, told ABC News.

When asked whether ISIS is a threat to the home front, Allen said “we should take it very seriously.”

CNN reported Feb. 8:

Jeh Johnson: “The numbers that we see are larger in European countries, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re concerned about travel to and from Europe and making sure we’ve got the appropriate security assurances from countries from which we do not require a visa. But here at home we do a pretty good job of tracking these individuals. And we have in a number of instances arrested people for material support, for attempting to travel to Syria, for example.”

Again: The Islamic State group is well-funded, well-organized, and composed of plenty of Americans and Europeans who are willing to do its bidding.

Put yourself in the shoes of a member of al Qaeda or Islamic State for a moment, even if it’s uncomfortable.

  • Yemen’s former president Abd-Rabbu Mansour literally quit on the job when radicals took over the presidential palace.
  • Libya is a free for all.
  • Iraq and Syria are dangerous places, but provide plenty of safe havens from which to operate.
  • The U.S. doesn’t know what it wants to do in Afghanistan and has its hands full with Iran.
  • Pakistan’s lawless regions are still just as lawless as ever.

Why would you risk a spectacular attack on U.S. soil that could result in the election of strong national security-focused president when you could just lie low, consolidate your gains in the region, and hope that another iteration of President Obama wins in 2016? You wouldn’t.

It seems much more likely that Islamic State will publicly cheer on any “lone wolf” attacks that may occur in the U.S. in the next few years while privately amassing more wealth and allocating resources to grow its nascent caliphate in the Middle East.

As I told my friend: the Islamic State group isn’t just some boogeyman. It’s a real organization and a threat to America’s national security interests around the globe. While guys like us shouldn’t stop meeting for breakfast to enjoy blueberry waffles, we also shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

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