National attention has been focused on the group of Islamic extremists known, variably, as the Islamic State, ISIS, and ISIL for the last few months, but government officials say that a worse threat may be looming on the horizon. According to House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, a group of former al Qaeda members in Syria are calling themselves Khorasan. They don’t have designs on turning the Middle East into a caliphate, but they may have designs on carrying out a terrorist attack in the United States.
Rogers, who appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation, said, “Al Qaeda always has been on an immediate path of conducting Western attacks. We shouldn’t forget it. That’s more immediate with this Khorasan group. We described it as deployed al Qaeda operatives who were engaging with al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula to develop a terror plot to bring down airplanes.”
The last time the government chose to ignore threats about hijacking airplanes, it turned into the single deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history. This isn’t just Republicans sounding the alarm, either. Senator Dianne Feinstein was also on the show, and she quickly agreed with Rogers that Khorasan was a legitimate threat to U.S. security. She put them into the same category as ISIS and Yemeni bombers, groups that could pose a serious danger to our national security.
“Each one of these is capable one day – some sooner than later – of a strike against our country, ” Feinstein told Bob Schaffer. “This is not a good situation.”
The discussion on Face the Nation was a follow up on a New York Times article than ran Saturday, outlining the history of this group of Syrian terrorists. According to the article, American officials in the State Department are categorizing Khorasan as the terrorists most interested in delivering a strike against the United States. That may seem hard to believe considering the direct overtures from ISIS, but State Department officials insist that Khorasan’s leader, Muhsin al-Fadhli, was among Osama bin Laden’s inner circle. He was one of only a handful of people who had advanced knowledge of the September 11th attacks.
News of this shadowy terror group comes as a surprise to many, considering that virtually nothing was known of them before last weekend. Of course, this is the way these things always happen. How many Americans would have been able to identify the name “al Qaeda” on September 10th, 2001? How many knew what ISIS (or ISIL or IS) was before this year? Until they are exposed, these groups typically thrive on a certain under-the-radar approach. Often, the first we hear of them is in the wake of some kind of disaster.
Now that we have the heads-up about this particular organization, let’s hope we can focus on preventing them from creating a repeat of the 9/11 attacks. Many thousands of innocent people died both on the day and in the years after as a result of the attack.
Somehow, having President Obama in office doesn’t make me feel great about our prospects of avoiding that nightmare for a second time.