NBC’s Engel: U.S. Counterterrorism Officials Have Been Underestimating ISIS

‘When Paris first happened, U.S. officials told me they thought it was going to be al Qaeda because they thought al Qaeda was the kind of organization that looked abroad’

ENGEL: "ISIS has always been an incredibly ambitious organization. I think what we’re seeing right now is an evolution of ISIS. One very senior expert in this country described it to me like this, that ISIS started out establishing its own base, consolidating its support at home, declaring a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Then it moved to phase two, exporting all of its branches, mostly into the Islamic world, mostly to places where the Arab Spring had failed. Now we’re seeing ISIS phase three. It’s moving international, it’s getting more sophisticated, claiming responsibility for downing the Russian plane, the Beirut multiple suicide attacks, and then this commando-style raid in Paris. Stage four would see ISIS moving even further west trying to carry on an attack in the United States. Yes, U.S. counterterrorism officials have been underestimating ISIS. They never thought that it had this kind of capability. When Paris first happened, U.S. officials told me they thought it was going to be al Qaeda because they thought al Qaeda was the kind of organization that looked abroad, looked to carry out complex attacks. Remember, the president once described ISIS as the JV team. If it was the JV team, itis no longer the JV team and probably hasn’t been for quite some time."

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