DETROIT – How strong is ISIS in America? The Local 4 Defenders sat down with a national security expert to find out.
James Carafano, Ph. D, is a 25-year Army veteran and leading expert in security and foreign policy. His research has focused on how emerging political and social trends are affecting armed conflict, and he's the vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.
"We have a database where we track Islamist-related terrorist plots aimed at the United States since 9/11. By our count, there's 74. Which, when you run that over the span of a decade, doesn't sound like a big deal, but what's really scary about that is 11 of those have just been in the past few months," Carafano said.
"And they've all been related to or affiliated to ISIS."
ISIS is bigger, bolder and anxious to attack.
"There is a serious effort to try to pull something off here," Carafano said. "They have state, they have billions of dollars, they have foreign fighters flooding in, nobody is driving them out and they can snub their noses at America."
ISIS is accelerating its violence platform by reaching out on social media, on websites and by marketing online magazines. It's been accused of human rights violations, using children as soldiers, public beheadings and using weapons against the press and women.
"Now, they feel comfortable enough to really try to franchise that idea out. We do see them reaching out, essentially all over the world, trying to capitalize on their success," Carafano said. "The good news is that there are 330 million people in the United States. If you add up everybody that's involved in every known Islamist-related terror plot in the United States, it adds up to less than 200 people. So, we're not seeing floods of foreign fighters."
While the number is small, there is still concern.
"The problem is, even people in small numbers can do a lot of damage and destruction," Carafano said.
Carafano encourages the public to read up on ISIS and vocalize concerns to their elected officials.
"If you let a problem metastasize, and you never deal with it, eventually it kills the host," Carafano said.
He also warns that parents need to be vigilant with their children's social media accounts – which are one medium ISIS is using for recruitment.
"It's when you link a social network to a social network that things really start to happen. And as long as people think ISIS is growing and important and powerful, people are going to want to sign up," Carafano said.