U.S. Counterterrorism boss says ISIS continues to expand globally and works about 20 affiliate branches outside Syria and Iraq

WASHINGTON – Recently nominated Director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center Christopher Miller this week said before the House National Security Committee that ISIS continues to expand globally and works about 20 geographical affiliate branches outside Syria and Iraq. The expansion comes despite its territorial defeat in Syria and Iraq and the elimination of its leaders.

“Extremist groups have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to recover from heavy losses by relying on dedicated cadres of veteran leaders and extensive covert networks,” Miller stated before a House National Security Committee hearing.

“Since the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019 and a number of other prominent figures, the new leader Amir Mohammed Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla has been able to manage new attacks with ISIS affiliates geographically far away from the leadership,” Miller said. The U.S. has put a most wanted price tag of up to $10 million on the ISIS leader. The UN listed Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla on its sanctions list for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of” entities associated with ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida.

According to Miller, ISIS’s global network “now includes approximately 20 branches”, outside Syria and Iraq. ISIS is also seeking to attack Western targets, but effective counter-terrorism operations have so far prevented it.

In Iraq and Syria, ISIS sleeper cells remain active in various parts of Iraq and Syria, especially along their shared border. According to the U.N., available data indicates that there are more than 10,000 ISIS terrorists still active in two neighboring countries, mostly organized into small cells.

On Iraq and Syria Miller said;

“in Syria and Iraq, ISIS has carried out assassinations and attacks with mortars and improvised explosive devices at a steady pace,” Miller said. Miller said the group has documented its operations with propaganda videos to show that their militants remain organized and active. In the absence of International coordination to resolve the situation of detained ISIS members, the terrorist organization is now focused on freeing thousands of its operatives with their families in detention centers in northeastern Syria.

In related news from Syria and Iraq, Syrian regime forces found six bodies of its members in the Dayro Zcuro (Deir ez-Zor) countryside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the six were slaughtered with knives by ISIS.

In Iraq, detachments of Iraqi National Security Apparatus in Nineveh province this week were able to arrest four ISIS members. The National Security statement said that the ISIS members originate from Nineveh Province and were fighters in Diwan al-Jund, the Islamic State’s version of a regular army.

Earlier this month Iraqi security forces captured three ISIS members who participated in the enslavement of Yezidi women in Shengal (Sinjar) and fought for ISIS during battles against Iraqi security forces. Last month, Iraqi forces managed to stop an attempt by over 100 ISIS fighters to cross the Syrian–Iraqi border with explosive materials.