The United States faces an evolving terrorist threat from global and regional extremist networks, as well as individual homegrown terrorists. Since September 11, 2001, we have recognized al Qaeda and their affiliate networks around the world as the primary threat to the Homeland. Now however, al Qaeda’s violent Islamist extremist ideology has been embraced by other groups and individuals who also seeking to kill Americans and threaten U.S. interests around the globe.
Though al Qaeda core has been significantly weakened following U.S. military action and the killing of Osama bin Laden, they continue to serve as an inspiration for their affiliated groups, which are gaining footholds across the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia. Further, as U.S. forces leave Afghanistan, al Qaeda core may attempt to restore their safe haven even as they continue to plot against the United States. Al Qaeda networks in Yemen, Mali, Syria, and Somalia have each proven themselves as lethal and capable jihadist groups.
In recent months, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) has shocked the world and threatened to undue the progress made in Iraq by coalition forces before their withdrawal. They have slaughtered those who do not embrace their violent jihad – including Americans – and have been joined by hundreds of Western citizens who have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight. Though no longer formally aligned with al Qaeda, ISIS is one of the many organizations around the globe that adheres to a violent Islamist extremist ideology.
The Committee is also concerned about people in the U.S. being radicalized by this same violent extremist ideology to carry out attacks in the Homeland. There have been a number of homegrown attacks over the last five years, including at Fort Hood, Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; and the Boston Marathon bombing. These extremists present a unique challenge to law enforcement as do American, Canadian and European citizens who have traveled to foreign battlefields and threaten to bring violence back home.
In a global world, homeland security extends beyond America’s shoreline. The Committee is focused on ensuring we are able to identify and eliminate terrorist threats to the United States whether they originate abroad or at home. It is critical that the Federal government, including law enforcement, the Intelligence Community, and the military continue to work diligently with state, local and tribal partners to identify, disrupt, and destroy terrorist networks and safe havens. The Committee remains dedicated to maintaining a robust program for identifying and tracking foreign fighters, granting DHS and its partner agencies the authorities to deny our enemies access to the Homeland, providing oversight of the Administration’s efforts to counter violent extremism, and ensuring the Department and all those involved in the homeland security mission are carrying out their responsibilities effectively and efficiently.