ISIS is quickly losing ground in the Middle East thanks to American and Russian airstrikes and Kurdish, Iraqi, and Syrian ground forces. The so-called caliphate is on the ropes and it looks like it may actually fall. But even as its armies fall back under attacks from the Islamic coalition, adherents to ISIS's violent philosophy have launched deadly attacks in western countries. The bloodiest was in Paris in 2015 where 130 were killed. More recently, 49 Americans were killed on June 11 during an attack on the patrons of an Orlando nightclub.
To carry out violent attacks across the world despite being surrounded at home, ISIS relies on two groups of potential terrorists. The first is ISIS members who fought in Iraq and Syria to launch attacks abroad, such as Mohamed Abrini and Najim Laachraoui. These two men were suspected members of ISIS who played key roles in the Brussels bombings in 2016. Intelligence agencies track people returning from Iraq and Syria and had flagged both men.
The sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, otherwise known as "this as-hole," are not known for bringing people together. (Screenshot: YouTube)
Al-Awlaki had connections to some of the 9/11 hijackers, the 2009 Fort Hood shooter, and the attempted downing of a plane in 2009 by a bomber wearing explosive underwear. Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, was known to have watched al-Awlaki videos. While al-Awlaki is dead, many of his lectures are still available on YouTube and other outlets.
Add YouTube and Twitter accounts and other propaganda outlets, and it's easy to see how potential terrorists are able to find ISIS's messages and continue down the road to radicalization.