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CIA Chief: US Has Not Underestimated IS


CIA Director John Brennan responds to a question as he speaks at the Global Security Forum 2015, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, Nov. 16, 2015.
CIA Director John Brennan responds to a question as he speaks at the Global Security Forum 2015, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, Nov. 16, 2015.

The United States has not underestimated the Islamic State group, CIA Director John Brennan said Monday.

Instead, Brennan credited the success of the U.S.-led coalition’s efforts in containing the group inside Iraq and Syria as to why “they are looking abroad” to make attacks.

He made the comments while speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

While it was “inevitable” that Islamic State militants would try to carry out such attacks, “to me it is not inevitable that they are going to succeed,” Brennan said.

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“A lot of our partners in Europe are facing a lot of challenge in terms of the numbers of individuals who have traveled to Syria and Iraq and back again so their ability to monitor and surveil these individuals is under strain,” he said.

While French officials are looking at how this attack occurred, Brennan said, “I can tell you that this attack was carried from the standpoint of we did have strategic warning. We knew that these plans or plotting by ISIL (Islamic State) was underway looking at Europe in particular as the venue for carrying out these attacks."

Strain on intelligence agencies

The large numbers of individuals who have gone to Syria and Iraq and then returned to Europe has strained the capacity of European intelligence services to monitor them all, Brennan noted.

He suggested a review of curbs placed on intelligence agencies in recent years, adding, "Because of a number of unauthorized disclosures and a lot of hand-wringing over the government's role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists, there have been some policy, and legal and other actions taken that make our ability, collectively, internationally to find these terrorists much more challenging."

Brennan said facing the threat of Islamic State required greater cooperation.

“The grave threat posed by the phenomenon of ISIL makes it absolutely imperative the international community urgently commit to achieving an even greater and unprecedented level of cooperation, collaboration, information sharing and joint actions in intelligence, in law enforcement, in military operations and in diplomatic channels. The ISIL threat demands it,” said Brennan.

The CIA chief said the Paris attacks by gunmen in suicide vests were carefully planned and executed.

"This was not something done in a matter of days. This is something that was carefully and deliberately planned over the course of several months in terms of whether they had the operatives, the weapons, explosives, suicide belts,” he said, according to a report by the French news agency AFP.

"I would anticipate that this is not the only operation ISIL has in the pipeline," he said, using an alternate acronym for the militant group that has seized large areas of Syria and Iraq.

Further discussing the group’s planning capabilities, he cited a string of external operations including suicide attacks in Beirut and probably the downing of a Russian airliner over Sinai, killing all 224 passengers aboard.

“While we await confirmation of culprit ability for those tragedies, they each bear the hallmarks of terrorism carried out by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL, an organization of murderous sociopaths that carries out its criminal and morally depraved actions under bogus religious pretense,” he said.

Mohamed Elshinnawi contributed to this report. Some material for this report came from AP and AFP.

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