Is ISIS bigger threat to America than Al-Qaeda?

Do you agree or not, and why, with the FBI statement that the Islamic State’s effort to inspire Americans to violence has become more of a terror threat to the U.S. than an external attack by al-Qaeda as FBI Director James Comey said? Read few comments.

J. M. Berger, Researcher, Non-resident Fellow with the Brookings Institution, Co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror

I do think ISIS is fundamentally a greater threat than al Qaeda, at this stage. That said, al Qaeda may still have the desire and ability to strike the US, and it no doubt has some surviving skilled operatives, but the advantage in numbers and resources has been slanted toward ISIS for some time. ISIS is more successful at motivating lone wolves, but it’s unclear whether it has the will and capacity for a 9/11-style attack on the US homeland.

James Forest, Professor, Director of the Security Studies, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Yes, I agree that this is a dangerous threat, though it is very difficult to compare apples and oranges here. It has become far more difficult for a foreign terrorist group to plan and carry out a major operation against the US homeland, but it has become all too easy to inspire someone here within the US to plan and carry out their own kind of terrorist attack. What we are seeing today is an increase in “do it yourself” terrorism, and I believe that is the very serious kind of security threat that the FBI is referring to.

Mark Hamm, Professor, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Indiana State University

Generally, yes I agree with the Comey statement. I have a database of all known cases of FBI arrests for US terrorism-related offenses since what we might call the “ISIS Summer of 2013.” That is when ISIS created the caliphate and began attracting Western foreign fighters. In addition to ISIS cases involving Americans (both foreign fighters and ISIS inspired attacks in the US), I have tracked Americans who have joined Al Shabaab, the Taliban, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Al Qaeda Central.

By far, the greatest number of cases have involved ISIS. That said, anything can happen in the future. The recent drone strikes against Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and Yemen, for instance, may spark a retaliation against the US. Furthermore, the US has yet to capture or kill AQ’s chief bomb-builder. So, as I say, anything can happen.

Mathieu DeflemProfessor, Department of Sociology, University of South Carolina, Author of the book  The Policing of Terrorism

I agree with it because recent events have proven that the main terrorist danger in the United States comes from American citizens or residents who have been inspired by extremist ideologies, rather than that they were members of a terrorist organization by whom they would have been directed. The Boston marathon bombing and the Chattanooga shootings are examples. These perpetrators were inspired by an ideology. I suspect that the terrorist organizations who are behind this ideology such as ISIS and al Aqaeda realize that their ideology has these effects and that they therefore seek to have it be consequential in the US, Europe by its appeal on disturbed people, rather than that they need to send their soldiers so to speak. The situation is different outside the western world though, because there these groups operate themselves on the ground.

Aaron Y. Zelin, Richard Borow Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Hard to assess since I don’t have access to the type of information they have. I’d say it’s 50-50, both equal threats. But definitely been in upward trajectory for IS for 18 months or so.




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