Developmental Milestones/Developments to Date:
Current Assessment/State of the Field:
Rudischhauser, Wolfgang, “Could ISIL go Nuclear?” [Full Article], 2015, NATO Review, Last Checked April 2016.
- “ISIL has attracted at least hundreds if not thousands of foreign fighters from Western countries to join its ranks. What makes ISIL different is exactly that.”
- “Together with their access to high levels of funding, these three elements bear the real risk of the group turning into practice what up to now has been largely a theoretical possibility: to actually employ weapons of mass destruction or CBRN material in terrorist attacks.”
- “Worrying reports confirm that ISIL has gained (at least temporarily) access to former chemical weapons storage sites in Iraq.”
- “Even more worrying, there are press reports about nuclear material from Iraqi scientific institutes having been seized by ISIL. This demonstrates that while no full scale plots have been unveiled so far, our governments need to be on alert.”
- “Even more worrying, ISIL actually controlled the so-called Al Muthanna site in Iraq for some months during 2014. At this site, according to UN reports, bunkers from the past Iraqi CW program contained ‘2,000 empty artillery shells contaminated with mustard agents, 605 one ton mustard containers with residues and heavily contaminated construction material’.”
- “Equally of concern is that ISIL fighters or supporters have stolen nearly 90 pounds (approx. 40kg) of low enriched uranium from scientific institutions at the Mosul University in Iraq.”
Burns, Robert, “US: Islamic State chemical weapons effort ‘degraded’,” [Full Article], March 2015, Times of Israel, Last Checked April 2016.
- “The US has “disrupted and degraded” the Islamic State’s ability to produce chemical weapons by launching multiple airstrikes in Iraq based on information provided by a militant leader who was captured last month and turned over to the Iraqi government on Thursday, Pentagon officials said.”
- “In its daily tally of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, the US-led coalition reported on Sunday that it conducted two airstrikes Saturday near Mosul against an IS “weapons production facility,” but it did not specify that this was a chemical weapons facility.”
- “He referred to public reports of the use by IS of sulfur mustard in a powder form.”
- “Al-Bakkar worked for the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s now-dissolved Military Industrialization Authority, where he specialized in chemical and biological weapons.”
Petrou, Michael, “How to beat Islamic State,” [Full Article], June 2015, Maclean’s, Last Checked April 2016.
- “This May, the city [Ramadi] was overrun by the so-called Islamic State, a militant group that grew out of al-Qaeda in Iraq and has slaughtered and raped its way across much of Iraq and Syria, declaring a caliphate in the territory it controls.”
- “Michael Pregent, a former U.S. intelligence officer who was embedded with Iraqi security forces, says American strategy against Islamic State is ‘in tatters’”
- “Iraqis, who remember how forcefully America overthrew the regime of Saddam Hussein 12 years ago, are angered by the slow pace of its campaign against Islamic State.”
- “Currently, America carries out about 15 air strikes a day, according to the New York Times, compared with about 800 a day during the 2003 Iraq war. There are fewer planes deployed now, but often they return to base without releasing their bombs, because pilots cannot identify targets or are not given approval to hit them.”
- “But all these options require Obama to decide this is a war that must be won, that defeating Islamic State is worth the investment and sacrifices the task requires.”
Kassam, Raheem, “Islamic State may already have Biological & Chemical Weapons in Europe,” [Full Article], December 2015, Breitbart News, Last Checked April 2016.
- “These resources are said to be plenty for the group to both procure and deploy so-called “weapons of mass destruction” and indeed recruit the experts needed to do so.”
- “Rudischhauser notes that biological and chemical weapons have been smuggled into Europe before, in turn leaning on a 2014 risk analysis by the European Commission which cites the radiological poisoning of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko as proof.”
- “Attacks using CBRN substances, such as the case of the Litvinenko radiological poisoning, have shown that CBRN threat substances have been carried undetected in and out of the European Union.”
- “Just days after the Paris Attacks, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls took the extraordinary step of announcing to the French parliament that he suspected the Islamic State might attempt to deploy chemical and biological weapons in Europe.”
Oppenheimer, Andy “CBRN Terrorism: Threat Becomes Reality” Military Technology, Volume 40 Issue 3. Pages 60-61. 2016.
- “The long-heralded threat of CBRN terrorism became real in 2015 following several reported incidents of mustard gas used in IEDs and mortars by the so called Islamic State (IS) mainly against Kurdish forces.” – page 60
- “IS has acquired more wealth and territory than al-Qaeda in setting up its proto-caliphate and hence has been rapidly attracting regional and international affiliates; acquiring an arsenal of weapons and purloined resources unprecedented for any insurgency or terrorist group in modern history.” – page 60
- “… IS applies means of conventional warfare, such as bombing and artillery, while also relying on ways of non-conventional warfare and the tried and tested terrorist MO of numerous suicide bomb attacks” – page 60
- “Areas under attack are spreading in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).” – page 60
- “IS is said to be actively recruiting experts with a background in physics and chemistry, and has already proven its capability to use CW against its adversaries. In Libya, Syria, and Iraq they control facilities that stored raw CB material, including traces of sarin-type chemical weapons, ricin-type biological weapons and mustard agents.” – page 60
- “Several organisations such as the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) and the NATO WMD Non-Proliferation Centre have urged that Europe must prepare for the possibility of a chemical or biological attack by IS…” – page 60
- “Major terrorist plots in the Middle East, Europe and the USA show that IS successfully infiltrated local societies with either comprehensive sleeper cells or lone wolves. The consequences in European security and defence policies were severe: IS’ new tactics lead to a lockdown of Brussels the week after the Paris attacks.” – page 60
- “Apart from arresting and putting on trial returnees from Syria with suspected IS allegiance, several EU countries have set up de-radicalisation programmes with varying degrees of limited success” – page 6
Hoffman, Bruce, “Return of the Jihadi,” [Full Article], January 2016, National Interest, Last Checked April 2016.
- “Less than six months after President Obama denigrated isis as a second-rate security concern, for example, the group’s fighters stormed into Iraq, conquered half that country, resurrected the caliphate, declared a state and set about slaughtering and enslaving thousands of Christians, Shia and members of other minority sects.” (p. 10)
- “As the defenders [Iraqi soldiers] fled, they left behind almost three military divisions’ worth of equipment—including American-made Humvees and m1 Abrams tanks, totaling tens of billions of dollars—which ISIS gleefully absorbed into its burgeoning arsenal.” (p. 10)
- “ISIS controls oil fields in the regions it governs, reportedly yielding revenue of up to $2 million per day.” (p. 11)
- “ISIS has appropriated Al Qaeda’s ideology and strategy, depicting itself as the most faithful embodiment of bin Laden’s vision.” (p. 12)
- “This unprecedented pool of foreign recruits suggests that ISIS would certainly have the capability to undertake more attacks modeled on the simultaneous assaults and running gun battles that occurred in Mumbai in November 2008 and Paris almost exactly seven years later.” (p. 16)
West, Allan B, “The Future of Warfare against Islamic Jihadism: Engaging and Defeating Non-state, Non-uniformed, Unlawful Enemy Combatants,” [Full Article], January 2016, Military Review, Last Checked April 2016.
- “The United States and its Western allies should consider ISIS their greatest threat.” (p. 40)
- “The first strategic imperative the United States must follow to defeat our enemy is to deny them sanctuary.” (p. 40)
- “We must cut off their flow of men, materiel, and resources by finding their transit routes and severing them.” (p. 41)
- “Our own media sources spent more resources droning on about Abu Ghraib in Iraq than focusing on what ISIS is and the atrocities of Islamic jihadism.” (p. 41)
- “The last strategic imperative necessary to achieve success against ISIS and the global Islamic jihad is to cordon off the enemy and reduce their sphere of influence.” (p. 42)
- “The spirit of the American warrior is unmatched but it is the lack of spirit from the nation and from the government that is hindering our victory against this enemy.” (p. 44)
El-Ghobashy, Tamer; Majeed, Safa; “Islamic State Struck Town with Chemical Weapons, Iraq Says” [Full Article], March 2016, Wall Street Journal, Last Checked April 2016.
- “Islamic State this week fired a barrage of mortars containing an unidentified chemical agent at an Iraqi town, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Friday, the same day a 3-year-old girl died of injuries from exposure to the substance.”
- “The chemical was still being analyzed, but symptoms were consistent with exposure to mustard gas or chlorine, an Iraqi provincial forensic expert said.”
- “The U.S. military captured one of Islamic State’s top chemical-weapons experts in a recent raid in northern Iraq and has spent several weeks interrogating him about the terror network’s capabilities and planning, according to U.S. officials, transferring him to the custody of Iraq this week.”
- “U.S. and Western officials have grown increasingly concerned about the terror network’s plans to use chemical weapons against enemies and in the U.S.”
- “Iraqi officials have confirmed since 2014 incidents of the Sunni Muslim extremist group’s use of weapons packed with mustard gas against government soldiers, allied militias and civilians. “
Strohm, Chris; Sink, Justin; Syed, Nafeesa; “Halting Islamic State’s Nuclear Goals at Center of Obama Summit,” [Full Article], April 2016, Bloomberg, Last Checked April 2016.
- “The group has used chlorine and possibly mustard gas in attacks in Iraq and Syria.”
- “While the official said the group doesn’t currently have the capability to deploy nuclear or radiological weapons, security experts say the detonation of a “dirty bomb” filled with radioactive material would require a costly cleanup even if fatalities were limited.”
- “Obama said Thursday that the attacks in Belgium increased the urgency to secure materials that could be used for nuclear or radiological weapons.”
- “Obama’s decision to add a session focused on Islamic State to the nuclear summit was praised by Kenneth Brill, a former U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
Vick, Karl, “The Terrorist Threat from ISIS may be about to get Worse,” [Full Article], April 2016, TIME, Last Checked April 2016.
- “As ISIS loses territory in Syria and Iraq, it lashes out with terrorist strikes abroad, especially against countries supporting the military campaign against it.” (p. 10)
- “Recent weeks have brought growing evidence that ISIS is actively seeking weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear material.” (p. 10)
- “A camera had been hidden in bushes and tilted to capture the front of the residence of a senior researcher at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre.” (p. 10)
- “The fear is that sooner or later, one of those attacks will include nuclear materials.” (p. 11)
- “When the group overran the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014, it gained access to some 90 lb. (41 kg) of radiological material at a local university.” (p. 12)
Cakan, Seyhmus, “Suspected Islamic State suicide bomber kills two police in southeast Turkey,” [Full Article], May 2016, Reuters, Last Checked May 2016.
- “Two police officers were killed and 22 people wounded in a suicide car bomb attack in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep.”
- “Turkey has suffered attacks recently both by Kurdish militants and members of Islamic State, raising concern at home and among NATO allies about the increasing spillover of conflict from neighbouring Syria.”
- “Turkey is facing security threats on several fronts. As part of a U.S.-led coalition, it is fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and battling Kurdish PKK militants in its southeast, where a 2-1/2-year ceasefire collapsed last July.”
- “Turkish military sources said on Sunday drones from the U.S.-led coalition, drawing on intelligence from Ankara, had struck an Islamic State explosives depot in the northern Syrian town of Dabiq.”
- “A wave of suicide bombings this year, including two in Turkey’s largest city Istanbul, have been blamed on Islamic State, and two in the capital Ankara were claimed by a Kurdish militant group.”
Barrett, David, “Islamic State threatens to expose British military secrets after publishing US Air Force ‘hit list’,” [Full Article], May 2016, The Telegraph, Last Checked May 2016.
- “The jihadi extremists circulated the names, home addresses and photographs of 76 United States Air Force personnel and claimed it had also stolen “secret intelligence” from Britain’s Ministry of Defense.”
- “Publishing photographs and purported home addresses of the American military personnel it said: “Kill them wherever they are, knock on their doors and behead them, stab them, shoot them in the face or bomb them.”
- “In a development which may offer military chiefs some reassurance over the safety of their IT systems, the 76 names appeared to have been gleaned from news articles and military newsletters before being matched with publicly-available data on the internet, such as telephone records.”
- “The terrorists’ hacking division was previously led by Junaid Hussain, a former computer hacker from Birmingham killed by a US drone strike in Syria last August.”
- “Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, said: We will not comment on the authenticity of the information in question, and this will have no effect on operations against Isil.”
Nesbit, Jeff, “Could the Islamic State Group Get a Nuclear Weapon?” [Full Article], April 2016, US News, Last Checked May 2016.
- “The world has made considerable progress in the past few years on efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear weapons-usable material, according to a recent special report on nuclear terrorism in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.”
- “More than half of the countries — 30 of 57 — that have had weapons-usable nuclear material on their soil eliminated it, in nearly all cases with U.S. help.”
- “The bad news is that commitments to improve security for nuclear weapons, fissile materials and nuclear facilities appear to have stalled or even lapsed in many countries.”
- “In fact, when it comes to nuclear security, two of the most important players — Russia and the United States — are going backwards.”
- “Meanwhile, the news that an Islamic State operative may have been intensively monitoring a senior official at a Belgian facility with significant stocks of highly enriched uranium has put the potential for acts of nuclear terrorism on the front burner again.”
- “We may be entering a time where nuclear terrorism is a very legitimate possibility — and world leaders need to pay attention in ways they haven’t been until now.”
Byman, Daniel, “ISIS Goes Global,” [Full Article], March 2016, Foreign Affairs, Last Checked May 2016.
- “But the Russian plane crash, which killed 224 people, was caused by a different beast: neither lone wolves nor ISIS itself but an ISIS affiliate that had pledged its loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, isis’ self-declared caliph.” (p. 76)
- “ISIS calls these groups wilayat, Arabic for ‘provinces.’” (p. 76)
- “The provinces pose a serious threat to Western interests: they enable ISIS to expand its reach and make local groups more deadly in their regional conflicts.” (p. 77)
- “More than any other modern terrorist group, ISIS relies on volunteers from abroad: by the end of 2015, roughly 25,000 foreigners from Arab countries and 5,000 from Western states had fought with it in Iraq and Syria, and the ranks of outsiders keep growing.” (p. 79)
- “Although ISIS today seems unstoppable to many Westerners, it has lost around 40 percent of its Iraqi territory since 2014, in addition to much of its oil infrastructure and heavy forces.” (p. 81)
- “When local groups, particularly strong ones, take on the ISIS label, they retain their own command structure, personnel, and parochial goals, and these often fit uneasily with those of the core group. (p. 83)
Hummel, Stephen, “THE ISLAMIC STATE AND WMD: ASSESSING THE FUTURE THREAT,” [Full Article], January 2016, CTC at West Point, Last Checked May 2016.
- “On November 19, 2015, a day after French police thwarted a second-wave attack by Islamic State terrorists in Paris, France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls raised the specter of the Islamic State deploying weapons of mass destruction (WMD) against the West.”
- “Since the Islamic State lacks the personnel and material to build a nuclear weapon, purchase on the black market becomes the most likely path to acquisition.”
- “Radiological dispersion devices (RDDs) are likely the only radioactive weapons that the Islamic State could employ.”
- “Since RDDs are no more complicated than an improvised explosive device, the Islamic State certainly has the capability to develop them.”
- “A laptop recovered by moderate Syrian rebels during a 2014 raid on the Islamic State stronghold of Idlib allegedly contained files instructing Islamic State on the preparation and use of biological weapons.”
- “Western medical countermeasures and response capabilities were able to handle the 2001 anthrax attack and quickly contain Ebola in the United States in 2014. All this suggests the impact of a deliberate biological attack by the Islamic State in the West would be extremely limited.”
- “Various media reports indicate that the Islamic State is currently employing chemical weapons, specifically mustard agent.”