After the fall of ISIS, we stopped hearing about these kinds of lone-wolf attacks. Now that the Taliban have re-established Afghanistan as a safe zone for terror networks’ recruiting and ISIS has new ground on which to operate, we might hear more stories like this from Garland, Texas. Investigators have begun pursuing the possibility that a murder of a Lyft driver and an attack on a police station might have been “inspired” by terrorist recruitment (via Matt Vespa):
Investigators are looking into whether a Texas man was inspired by foreign terrorists when he killed a Lyft driver in a Dallas suburb and later opened fire in the police station of another suburb where officers fatally shot him.
Police said Imran Ali Rasheed ordered a Lyft in his home city of Garland Sunday then fatally shot the driver, Isabella Lewis. Her stolen car was found a short time later outside the police station in the neighboring community of Plano, where Rasheed began shooting in the lobby before being shot by officers, police chiefs in both cities said at a Monday news conference.
Matthew DeSarno, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office, said investigators believe Rasheed acted alone but that the 33-year-old left a letter indicating he “may have been inspired by a foreign terrorist organization.” He did not offer more specifics on the letter and declined to identify the group.
Did I write “lone wolf”? Perhaps I should have written “known wolf.” Rasheed had come up on the radar screen before, back when ISIS was ascendent in Iraq and Syria:
DeSarno said Rasheed was the subject of a counterterrorism investigation from 2010 to 2013, when the case was closed after agents determined Rasheed did not currently pose a threat. The agency’s regional terrorism task force is working on the investigation of Lewis’ killing, he said.
The timing could be coincidental. However, the initial successes of ISIS in its transition from al-Qaeda in Iraq touched off years of effective recruitment of one-off terrorists in the US. The FBI’s top national-security official testified in 2016 before a Senate subcommittee to their prowess in Internet recruitment, both for travel to their “caliphate” and for terror acts within the US (using the Obama-era term ISIL for ISIS):
ISIL has proven relentless in its violent campaign to rule and has aggressively promoted its hateful message, attracting like-minded extremists, including among Westerners. To an even greater degree than al Qaeda or other foreign terrorist organizations, ISIL has persistently used the Internet to communicate and spread its message. From a Homeland perspective, it is ISIL’s widespread reach through the Internet and particularly social media which is most concerning as ISIL has aggressively employed this technology for its nefarious strategy. ISIL blends traditional media platforms, glossy photos, in-depth articles, and social media campaigns that can go viral in a matter of seconds. No matter the format, the message of radicalization spreads faster than we imagined just a few years ago.
Unlike other groups, ISIL has constructed a narrative that touches on all facets of life—from career opportunities to family life to a sense of community. The message is not tailored solely to those who are overtly expressing symptoms of radicalization. It is seen by many who click through the Internet every day, receive social media push notifications, and participate in social networks. …
Lastly, social media has allowed groups, such as ISIL, to use the Internet to spot and assess potential recruits. With the widespread distribution of social media, terrorists can identify vulnerable individuals of all ages in the United States—spot, assess, recruit, and radicalize—either to travel abroad to join ISIL or to conduct a homeland attack. The foreign terrorist now has direct access into the United States like never before.
A large part of their recruiting power came from their military successes. Once the US, Iraq, and Iranian-backed militias destroyed the so-called caliphate in Syria and killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, their recruitment stalled and so did these kinds of lone-wolf attacks. It’s been pretty quiet here over the last three years or so, at least relatively speaking.
Now that we have retreated under fire in Afghanistan, however, radical Islamist groups have newfound credibility with potential recruits, not to mention lots of resources to use for such efforts. Even if those have not become fully operational, previously discouraged recruits might undergo a rebirth of radicalism after watching the US get humiliated by the Taliban and ISIS-K in Kabul. That might be why Rasheed picked this week to conduct his attacks.
Even if the timing was coincidental, however, the threat certainly isn’t. We didn’t end the “forever wars,” which Afghans can tell you at the moment from personal experience anyway. We might have only relocated them.