This past few days there have been reports that there is a ”just as bad as ISIS” terror group plotting international attacks from the same region — a group named Khorasan.
The director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., said on Thursday that “in terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State.”
If you’ve never heard of Khorasan, that’s fine. It’s probably because Khorasan’s not actually a terror group, new or old. It’s still Al Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra doing what they do.
"Khorasan" would be a great name for a terror group, with nearly unlimited potential for ominous mispronounciation. Sadly, it is not. It’s a word used by al-Qaeda (& others) for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, where its top leadership sits. What has happened, if US intel is telling the truth, is that a group of AQ veterans have relocated to Syria to support AQ’s local franchise, Jabhat al-Nosra, and (this is the newsworthy part) to develop its capacity for international attacks. All this, apparently, on the urging of AQ’s core leadership. The "Khorasan group" thing comes from them being sent to Syria from "Khorasan" – that is, by AQ’s leadership in Pakistan – and presumably taking their orders straight from there. It’s not the name of a group and they’re not an independent organization. As described in reports so far, they’re a specialized working group inside or otherwise attached to Jabhat al-Nosra that seeks to use the training camps, resources & recruits that Jabhat al-Nosra controls in Syria to run global attacks for which AQ can then claim credit.
But my answer is always the same when I’m asked what outcome I prefer: either result will be the correct one. We’re a pretty canny bunch and don’t suffer fools, so we’ll see through the political game playing and make an informed decision. I know the day I return home to live there I will be safe in the knowledge that we, as a people, decided the shape of our own future. Not many generations get the chance to say that.
The polls have closed and the decision, whichever it is, has been made in Scotland’s referendum. Keep up here on the Guardian and the BBC — although it’s going to be a bit of a wait. The final result probably won’t be until the AM (in Scotland).
It’s hard to watch the video of Steven Sotloff’s last moments and not conclude something similar: the ostensible objective of securing an Islamic state is nowhere near as important as killing people. For the guys who signed up for ISIS—including, especially, the masked man with the English accent who wielded the knife—killing is the real point of being there. Last month, when ISIS forces overran a Syrian Army base in the city of Raqqa, they beheaded dozens of soldiers and displayed their trophies on bloody spikes. “Here are heads that have ripened, that were ready for the plucking,” an ISIS fighter said in narration. Two soldiers were crucified. This sounds less like a battle than like some kind of macabre party.
… and threatened the life of Briton David Cawthorne Haines.
To honor Sotloff, a man who reported on civilian suffering in dangerous circumstances with a lot of compassion, read a selection of his work here at Foreign Policy and at TIME. Also consider a donation in his honor to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Rest in peace.