Less than two years after President Biden withdrew U.S. personnel from Afghanistan, the country has become a significant coordination site for the Islamic State as the terrorist group plans attacks across Europe and Asia, and conducts “aspirational plotting” against the United States, according to a classified Pentagon assessment that portrays the threat as a growing security concern.
The attack planning, detailed in U.S. intelligence findings leaked on the Discord messaging platform and obtained by The Washington Post, reveal specific efforts to target embassies, churches, business centers and the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, which drew more than 2 million spectators last summer in Qatar. Pentagon officials were aware in December of nine such plots coordinated by ISIS leaders in Afghanistan, and the number rose to 15 by February, says the assessment, which has not been disclosed previously.
“ISIS has been developing a cost-effective model for external operations that relies on resources from outside Afghanistan, operatives in target countries, and extensive facilitation networks,” says the assessment, which is labeled top-secret and bears the logos of several Defense Department organizations. “The model will likely enable ISIS to overcome obstacles — such as competent security services — and reduce some plot timelines, minimizing disruption opportunities.”
The Afghanistan findings are one facet of a complex and evolving terrorist threat described in the leaked documents, now linked to a criminal case in which a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard is accused of sharing classified information with friends online. Other reports in the same documents trove reveal persistent efforts by the Islamic State in other parts of the world to obtain expertise for creating chemical weapons and operating drone aircraft, and a plot in which the group’s supporters would kidnap Iraqi diplomats in Belgium or France in a bid to secure the release of 4,000 imprisoned militants. [Continue reading…]