Type of Attack: Organized State/Non-State Sponsored Attack
The list of enemies of the United States is a long one, and many, if the right opportunity presented itself, would not hesitate to attempt to do us harm. From Iran’s IRQCs Quds force, to Hamas, Hezbollah, AQ, and now the Islamic State, the list goes on. Some of these may have the means, but not the will; some, like AQ, have proven that they have means and the will. With the rise of IS, and the defection of many groups from AQ to IS, there is potential for AQ to attempt another big scale attack in the U.S. It would send a message not only to the U.S. but also to IS and the groups who are contemplating switching allegiances. This is very dangerous because it could cause retaliation attacks from IS. This would be the Jihadist version of “keeping up with the Joneses.”
To understand the different potential threats, we need to look at what has been done in the past to understand their level of tactical competence, and also the types of targets they would consider.
Coordinated attack with multiple diversions (Mumbai Model)
This example is a highly coordinated multi-pronged assault with the intent of overwhelming first responders, and to conceal their real target. It causes a significant amount of destruction with a very high death toll. In 2008, 10 terrorists hit 12 locations and were able to kill 166 people and wound at least 308. They were members of Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Talibi, which was affiliated with AQ. Review timeline of the LET’s attack on Mumbai. Watch some closed circuit T.V. footage of the Mumbai attack:
This kind of attack in any city in the U.S. would quickly overwhelm first responders, giving the terrorists much-needed time to kill as many people as possible. If a diversionary attack away from the main target was hit, it would draw the first responders away from the real target and delay response. It would also force the police to split their forces and assets, and in the “fog of war” who knows how long it would take to sort it all out. All this confusion and delay plays right into the hands of the terrorists who will use it to kill more and more people.
Single Target, Multiple Breach Points (Nairobi Model)
The operation was planned by Al-Shabab in Somalia, and they used specially selected teams of English-speaking foreign fighters who trained specifically for this mission. They infiltrated into Kenya through the porous border (good thing we don’t have one of those), studied the blueprints, and even rented a shop which gave them access to the restricted areas of the mall and allowed them to stash extra supplies, including belt-fed machine guns. They entered from multiple entrances and proceeded to kill and herd as many hostages as they could; by the time it was over, 67 people were dead.
A takeoff on this type of attack is the Beslan School Massacre by Sunni Chechen rebels in 2004. By the time it was over, 334 people had been killed, including 186 children, and more than 700 people wounded. The terrorists stormed the school with belt-fed machine guns, automatic rifles, explosives, grenades and RPGs. Once they had herded all the hostages into the gymnasium, they rigged explosives to a pressure sensitive switch that a terrorist stood on (look at the 3:13 mark). Watch a video of Russians clearing the school.
A point I want to make about Beslan is that most police forces are not equipped or capable of handling a situation of this magnitude. It would require FBI’s HRT, at a minimum, to deal with this level of firepower. If you think it would be difficult to acquire this type of armament, a California State Senator Leland Yee was recently charged with brokering a deal to smuggle machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades into the United States. The Mexican Cartels are armed with and routinely use AKs, grenade launchers, grenades, light to heavy machine guns, sniper rifles up to .50, and RPGs. This is why ISIS eyes our Southern Border.
For more information on Mumbai and Nairobi, and more details on what this kind of attack would look like here in America, check out this article from the guys at ISIS Study Group