ISIS has long vowed to expand its operations beyond Iraq and the Levant, and they are well on their way to accomplishing that goal, with horrific results.
As we write this, Paris is reeling from a string of deadly terrorist attacks at the city's main soccer stadium, a concert hall and a sidewalk cafe. Sky News reports at 120 people were killed, mainly at the music venue. So far, ISIS has not officially claimed responsibility, but one of the surviving terrorists told French police that he was recruited for the operation by the terror group.
The carnage in France comes on the heels of this week's attacks in Beirut and the recent downing of a Russian jetliner over the Sinai Peninsula. ISIS is suspected in both attacks, which underscore the group's growing capabilities outside its original operating areas.
At first, there was a certain tendency among so-called "experts" to downplay the significance of the earlier strikes. The Russian flight originated from Sharm el Sheik, the Egyptian resort on the Red Sea where security had been questioned before the Metrojet A320 went down, killing all 224 passengers and crew on board. That was followed by the bombings in Beirut, which some suggested were a renewal of the long-standing conflict between the Sunni terrorists of ISIS and Shia of Hezbollah, and a sign that ISIS is under "pressure" from its simultaneous conflicts with Iran, Russian, the U.S. and its western partners and Hezbollah.
Such claims seem laughable in light of tonight's terrorist rampage in France. The attack was complex, well-planned and expertly coordinated--a blended strike similar to the one that occurred in Mumbai, India in 2008. More than 160 people died in that attack; the death toll in Paris may likely be higher. Carrying out that type of assault required at least two dozen operatives, along with a large support network of safe houses, logisticians, drivers, financiers and others.
Apparently, there were no advance indications that an attack was imminent. As one analyst bitterly noted, "they read Snowden," underscoring how terrorists learned about NSA surveillance techniques from his massive disclosure of sensitive intelligence. The signals intelligence branch of the DGSE uses similar measures, so the counter-measures applied to NSA can be used against a variety of western SIGINT organizations.
In the hours following the Paris attacks, there was predictable chatter among terrorists and their sympathizers. One message, quoted by Fox News, left little doubt as to ISIS's ultimate goal. "American blood is the sweetest," one terrorist tweeted, "and we will taste it soon." There was also a reference to terrorists in cars, an obvious reference to VBIED attacks.
While security was reportedly increased in New York City and Washington, D.C., Americans officials said late Friday night there was "no known threat" to the CONUS at this time. A few hours earlier, President Obama told ABC News that ISIS had been "contained."
Meanwhile, the FBI says more than 1,000 ISIS-related investigations are underway in the U.S. In the coming days, expect to see the usual, strange dichotomy that often occurs at times like these. Officially, we will be told that "everything is being done" to deter a possible attack, while privately, other sources will warn that the nation remains highly vulnerable, with genuine fears that ISIS teams are in place and will strike very, very soon.
In this environment, that latter scenario is probably closer to the truth. We are two weeks from Black Friday, and the start of the Christmas shopping season. Attacks during the holiday period, when stores, airports and other public places are jammed, has always represented a nightmare scenario for federal, state and local law enforcement.
This may well be the year the nightmare comes true. Far from being "contained," ISIS has staged a spectacular "breakout," and the threat (in all likelihood) is already here.
During Saturday night's Democratic candidate presidential debate, Hillary Clinton said she supports plans to bring up to 65,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S., despite the fact that the FBI (and other law enforcement agencies) have warned there is no way to properly vet those individuals.
Tellingly, Mrs. Clinton made the remarks after French authorities announced that two of the terrorists involved in Friday's attacks entered Europe through the recent waves of migrants that have made their way from the Middle East. She also refused to say the U.S. is at war with radical Islam. Go figure.