The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may be moving toward an attempt to cause mass casualties through its attacks, rather than relying on inspiring singular “lone wolf” attempts in other countries, according to a CNN report.
In part because of a fierce competition with other terrorist networks, being able to kill opponents on a large scale would allow them to make a powerful showing, members of the intelligence community told the outlet Friday.
It is also a factor of an influx of untrained ISIS recruits, said Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, a military analyst for CNN.
“I think they’re taking a lot of the new recruits that don’t have time to train, who have not been brought up in their systems, and they’re using them to create the type of mass casualty which produces the media attention, which is exactly what they want, that shows they’re still powerful,” he said.
ISIS still claims about 20,000 to 30,000 fighters throughout Iraq and Syria — similar to levels before U.S.-led airstrikes on the group began.
While the coalition has killed scores of ISIS fighters, its ranks have been replenished with those lured by flashy recruitment videos and social media outreach.
The White House is taking steps to prevent potential recruits from crossing through Turkey into Syria, and says ISIS has lost about 30 percent of the area it controlled last summer – about 17,000 square kilometers of territory in northern Syria.
“To date, the intelligence view has been that ISIS is focused on less ambitious attacks, involving one or a small group of attackers armed with simple weapons. In contrast, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, has been viewed as both more focused on — and more capable of — mass casualty attacks, such as plots on commercial aviation,” CNN reported over the weekend. “Now the intelligence community is divided.”
The United States is also working to train rebels in Syria to fight back, but those efforts — in addition to the fighters themselves — are fledgling.
U.S. troops, however, signed an accord with Turkey — the key entry point for many into Syria — to use an airbase in the country for strikes against the terrorist networks.