Islamic State “affiliates” seem to be emerging at an alarming rate, giving the sense of an expanding terror network with satellites all over the world.
But a closer look, according to analysts, shows these ISIS offshoots are likely operating without much coordination with the Islamic State core. It doesn’t make them any less dangerous, but helps explain how a group President Obama described just one year ago as “JV” has established a presence in nearly a dozen countries.
Unlike Al Qaeda, which in its prime was operationally stronger and had a better communication network with its affiliates, the ISIS network appears more fractured. There is no clear-cut power pyramid beyond its head, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. And a number of the affiliates existed before, only recently latching onto ISIS as the terror network grew in notoriety.
J.D. Gordon, a former Pentagon spokesman said the array of different ISIS offshoots reveals an organization “that is operationally not as close or sophisticated as Al Qaeda.”
But he warned, even though Al Qaeda has a more “robust system of finances as well as better communication,” ISIS is quickly learning how to fund its terror network and address its operational issues.
Officials are looking at the spread of the terror network following the recent beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by ISIS in Libya. While the heart of ISIS beats strongest in Syria and Iraq, terrorist cells tied to the group have popped up in 11 countries including Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines, Jordan, Lebanon, Algeria, Egypt and Yemen, according to U.S. intelligence reports.
Just how close these smaller offshoots are to the mother ship is a matter of debate. But ISIS has been able to successfully back smaller terror cells linked to them through a for-profit militant model, of sorts.