May 31, 2018 | House Committee on Homeland Security

ISIS-Post Caliphate: Threat Implications for America and the West

Download the full testimony here


Chairman McCaul, Ranking Member Thompson, and distinguished members of the committee, it is an honor to appear before you today to testify about the threat implications as the militant group known as the Islamic State (hereafter ISIS) moves into the post-caliphate phase of its existence.

The collapse of ISIS’s “caliphate” is indeed an important milestone for the region, and will reduce both the threat of ISIS’s external operations (that is, terrorist plots abroad) and the extraordinary appeal that ISIS displayed in electrifying jihadist sympathizers and inspiring lone-actor attacks across the globe. When it controlled significant territory spanning Syria and Iraq, ISIS brutalized the population under its yoke, openly boasted of instituting sex slavery, adopted genocidal policies toward the Yazidis and other religious minorities, and planned large-scale terrorist attacks across the world. The fact that the group no longer controls its own proto-state is a positive turn of events that is hard to understate. But recent geopolitical developments have provided ISIS with breathing room. And even if ISIS’s decline were continuing apace, ISIS is not the whole of the jihadist movement, which remains in a relatively strong position. ISIS’s territorial decline should be understood in the context of a larger movement that remains dynamic, adaptable and dangerous, and that has grown significantly in strength since the 2011 “Arab Spring” revolutions. Further, technological advances and geopolitical developments have helped to enhance the global jihadist movement in definable ways.

My testimony addresses five critical points that I believe can inform how we should understand and address the threat implications of jihadism after the fall of ISIS’s caliphate:
1. Recent geopolitical developments have given ISIS important breathing room.

2. ISIS’s ability to preserve or reestablish its “virtual planner” model of external operations will have a significant impact on the threat that the group will pose against the U.S. and other Western countries.

3. The global jihadist movement’s overall trajectory is one of growth, not of decline.

4. Al-Qaeda has exploited the heightened counterterrorism focus on ISIS in recent years.

5. Tackling jihadists’ exploitation of consumer-oriented technological advances will be critical to mitigating the threat in the future.

Download the full testimony here