Two times in November, President Barack Obama has practically pooh-poohed the threat of Islamic terrorists from groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) just before the jihadists reared their ugly — and deadly –heads. Prior to the Paris terrorist attacks which left 130 people dead at different locations, Obama said ISIS is not gaining strength and that the U.S.-led coalition has contained the radical extremists.
Obama told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, “I don’t think they’re gaining strength. What is true is that from the start, our goal has been first to contain and we have contained them. They have not gained ground in Iraq, and in Syria they’ll come in, they’ll leave. But you don’t see this systemic march by ISIL across the terrain. What we have not yet been able to do is to completely [behead] their command structures. We’ve made some progress in trying to reduce the flow of foreign fighters, and part of our goal has to be to recruit more effective Sunni partners in Iraq to really go on offense rather than simply engage in defense.”
In addition to downplaying the threat posed by radical Islam, the Commander in Chief failed to address the recruitment strategies of Islamist organization. The success of ISIS, Somalia’s Al Shabaab, al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula and other groups is due in large part to their ability to bring in replacements for the terrorists who are killed or who desert.
A new study offers what its authors describe is the first comprehensive review of Americans who have been recruited by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The study is based on legal records and social media research conducted by the George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. The report examined social media accounts and legal documents of nearly 400 Americans who sympathize with ISIS, according to the Homeland Security News Wire.
“The phenomenon of Americans joining jihadist groups is not new, but the size of the ISIS-related radicalization and mobilization is unprecedented,” said Lorenzo Vidino, director of the Program on Extremism.
The study finds the following characteristics of ISIS U.S. sympathizers, based on information included in legal documents: Their average age is 26; more than 50 percent traveled or attempted to travel abroad; authorities have made arrests in twenty-one states; 40 percent converted to Islam; 14 percent are female.
According to the Homeland Security News Wire, the report examined more than 7,000 pages of legal documents related to the seventy-one individuals charged with ISIS-related activities in the United States. It found that the profiles of individuals involved in ISIS-related activities in the United States differ widely in race, age, social class, education, and family background. Their motivations are equally diverse.
The report also says there have been active investigations in all fifty states, and U.S. law enforcement officials have made arrests in twenty-one states. It notes the highest number of ISIS recruits were charged in New York and Minnesota.
“Other than size, diversity is the other main characteristic of this phenomenon. We have seen cases in big cities and rural towns. The individuals involved range from hardened militants to teenage girls, petty criminals and college students,” Dr. Vidino said. “While some seek to join the self-declared caliphate in ISIS-controlled territory, others plan attacks within the United States. It’s a growing and disturbing phenomenon.”
“ISIS and its supporters are adept at using social media to radicalize and recruit Americans,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the GW’s Program on Extremism. “A small number of Americans have whole-heartedly embraced their new-found ISIS support system online. The bar for Americans to join these terrorist organizations has been lowered, allowing a level of connectivity and interaction with recruiters and propagandists unheard of just a few years ago.”
East and northern Africa.will publish some of the legal documents used to compile the report on its Web site. This will be one of the largest online collections of ISIS-related legal documents on American cases.