A former U.S. intelligence officer specializing in the Middle East says the post “caliphate” Islamic State has morphed into a more traditional terrorist organization and is currently seeking out “high value targets.”
Meanwhile, a new United Nations report issued late last month finds there are somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 ISIS fighters remaining in Iraq and Syria.
“ISIS 2.0 is the al Qaeda model. That’s what we’re seeing now,” Middle East expert Michael Pregent told The Washington Times. “We’re seeing ISIS operate as a traditional terror organization.”
Pregent — a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute — served as a U.S. Army intelligence officer in Iraq and Afghanistan and held multiple positions in U.S. Central Command, specializing in terrorism and counterterrorism.
The expert believes that ISIS has shifted into an “intel gathering period and they’re looking for high value targets.”
The U.N. report reached a similar conclusion. “It seems likely that a reduced, covert version of the ISIL core will survive in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, with a presence also in neighboring countries.”
“Many ISIL fighters, planners and senior doctrinal, security and military commanders have been killed in the fighting, and many fighters and other personnel have left the immediate conflict zone,” according to the report.
“Many, however, remain in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, some still fully engaged militarily and others hiding out in sympathetic communities and urban areas.”
Fears resurfaced on Tuesday that some radicalized fighters will make their way to their home countries or other parts of the world to carry out lone wolf attacks after 29-year-old Salih Khater, originally from Sudan, rammed pedestrians and cyclists near the British Parliament in London.
Authorities have not pinned the attack on ISIS, but it has the hallmarks of the terrorist organization’s modus operandi.
The United Nations’ estimates of between 20,000 and 30,000 fighters equally distributed between Iraq and Syria is similar to the U.S. military’s assessment, which puts the numbers at 14,000 fighters in Syria and 17,000 in Iraq.
The U.N. reported, “The flow of foreign terrorist fighters towards ISIL in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic has essentially come to a halt. The reverse flow, although slower than expected, remains a serious challenge.”
Another difficult aspect of the new phase in ISIS’ existence is tracking the organization’s finances.
“The continuing transition by ISIL from a territorially based terrorist group to a covert terrorist network has made its finances more difficult to discern,” according to the U.N.
“Its financial reserves have declined but not dried up, and one Member State estimates its total reserves to be in the low hundreds of millions of United States dollars.”
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