John O. Brennan was sworn in as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on March 8, 2013. Previously, he served at the White House for four years as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. During that time, he advised President Obama on counterterrorism strategy and helped coordinate the U.S. Government’s approach to homeland security. Mr. Brennan began his service in government at the CIA, where he worked from 1980 to 2005. His assignments included Chief of Station in the Middle East and later Deputy Executive Director. He led multi-agency efforts to establish the National Counterterrorism Center, which he became interim director of in 2004.
CTC: Much of the discourse surrounding the 9/11 anniversary tends to center around questions related to “Are we safer?” You’ve been on the record that our security has improved since that day. So if you look at it from the other side, specifically assessing the strength of our adversary on that day, al-Qa`ida, how would you assess their strength these days?
Brennan: Well, al-Qa`ida today is much different than it was on 9/11. Al-Qa`ida at that time was really based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Afghanistan mostly. And I think what we have done since 9/11 is to dismantle a large part of that core al-Qa`ida organization that was based in Afghanistan and pushed it out, and now it’s scattered in that area. But we have other elements of al-Qa`ida that have sprung up—as you know, al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP], we have Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, al-Qa`ida in Syria. And you have al-Qa`ida in the Islamic Maghreb that is still out there. A lot of those elements of al-Qa`ida that have sprung up have really adopted much more of a localized agenda, so we see that there are several thousand al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula individuals, but they have been fighting mainly an insurgency down there. But there is still a very lethal terrorist element to it. Same thing with Jabhat al-Nusra; most of that is focused on trying to oust Assad. But we are concerned about their using Syria as a safe haven for attacks outside.
So over the last 15 years, al-Qa`ida has been diminished as a result of the great pressure that we’ve put on them in Af-Pak. However, they were able to gain some strength in some of these other areas. We now see that al-Qa`ida in Iraq has morphed into Daesh, or ISIL. So al-Qa`ida is still a very serious concern and threat, and the core of al-Qa`ida—[current al-Qa`ida leader Ayman] al-Zawahiri and others of that ilk—still think of the West as the major enemy. And as we know from looking at some of the things that came out of [Usama bin Ladin’s] Abbottabad compound, I think bin Ladin was very concerned about how many Muslims had died at the hands of al-Qa`ida and believed it was really tarnishing their brand and their purpose. So I do believe that they consider the United States to be a principal target.
That said, given what we have done here since 9/11, the United States is a much less hospitable environment for terrorists to ply their trade. And it’s more difficult for them to do it. This doesn’t mean that there’s still not ways to do it, but al-Qa`ida itself is a much different organization than on 9/11. In some respects, it is less dangerous than it was because we’ve taken away a lot of the capability of that core, but in other respects, it maintains the lethality that if it puts its mind to it, it still can carry out attacks with devastating consequences.
CTC: What is the intelligence picture with regard to al-Qa`ida attempting to move back into Afghanistan on the coattails of the Taliban?
Brennan: Well I think if we believe that a lot of al-Qa`ida migrated into Pakistan over the last 15 years, they haven’t done too well there. And I think they are still searching for a place where they can feel more secure, and there are areas inside of Afghanistan that they believe may provide greater security because the Taliban may control certain areas. I think it’s only going to be a temporary respite from the counterterrorism pressures that they’re feeling. We see the number of Afghan forces that have died in combat going up. Yes, that’s a reflection of increased fighting, but it also shows that it’s Afghans who are fighting for their country once again. So if al-Qa`ida decides to move over into Afghanistan, I think they do so with some trepidation as well as uncertainty about what their future’s going to hold.
CTC: What is your assessment of the July decoupling announcement between al-Qa`ida and Jabhat al-Nusra and the latter’s rebranding as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham?
Brennan: I believe that given that there has been a fair amount of press about efforts by the United States and Russia and others to try to prevent Syria from becoming a new safe haven for al-Qa`ida via Jabhat al-Nusra, I think they recognized that that moniker is a liability. And I do not believe that that name change is going to really change the focus of this organization, which has been primarily to carry out offenses against pro-regime forces. I am concerned that there still remains a very worrisome element of Jabhat al-Nusra that will be wrapped maybe in this new name but will still have external plotting as its purpose. So I do think it’s purely a change of name but not really a change in orientation, purpose, agenda, and objectives.
CTC: Is there a concern that it may help the group further embed itself in the local context by building alliances with other groups like Ahrar al-Sham?
Brennan: Maybe marginally, but I think only marginally because if we take a look at what has happened on the battlefield inside of Syria, there is a lot of collaboration among the different stripes of oppositionists. So Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham never had really any aversion to collaborating with one another. And Jabhat al-Nusra was able also to have tactical battlefield cooperation with groups that were even in the moderate side of the spectrum. Given that they are fighting a common enemy—Syria and its backers—there has been significant interaction among them to date. So I think the name change will really not affect that much. We’ll have to see how this develops over time. Since the name change was announced, the rank-and-file of Jabhat al-Nusra, will have been thinking, “What does this mean? Do we do anything differently?” And I don’t think they are going to do anything differently.
CTC: Do you think it has any impact on the nature of the conflict between Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State?
Brennan: Of all the groups in Syria, we’ve seen probably the least collaboration and cooperation between Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra because they’ve become visceral enemies. And I think that reflects the Julani-Abu Du’a personal enmity[a] that really has led to this fracturing within the organization. When they confront one another, they can fight bitter battles. I do not believe that this name change is going to affect that relationship—positively or negatively—at this time.
CTC: Speaking more broadly then about the nature of the conflict and relationship between the Islamic State and al-Qa`ida, there’s been this ongoing debate in the analytical community about who’s stronger, who’s weaker, who’s gaining in influence in the jihadist community. Can you comment on which entity you think has the upper hand, either in the short-term or long-term?
Brennan: I think just in terms of pure numbers and global presence, influence, and impact, ISIL has surpassed al-Qa`ida due to the resonance it has among the extremist terrorist community, their reach, their activity, their operational cadence. I think because of all of that, the Islamic State has the upper hand. There is, I think, some competition that’s going on. I wouldn’t be surprised if al-Qa`ida was looking for ways to regain some prominence, not just with these localized wars we’re talking about but also doing some things outside. But I do think the balance is very much in ISIL’s favor at this time.
CTC: Would that be reflected in terms of how you rank them regarding direct threats to U.S. national security, either in the homeland or U.S. interests abroad?
Brennan: I would put ISIL much higher on the operational cadence scale as well as on the span of activity and the numbers of individuals who might, in fact, be used to carry out an attack against U.S. interests, whether it be in the region, whether it be in Europe, or whether it be over here. And their activity in the digital environment is also very extensive, creating greater prospects for carrying out attacks. They have been, I think, very sophisticated in their use of that digital domain, more sophisticated than al-Qa`ida. I think partly that’s because of their age. If I were to look at the average age of ISIL members as opposed to al-Qa`ida, there’s probably a difference there. It’s much younger in ISIL, and the younger you are these days, the more adept you are at being able to use very sophisticated and leading-edge apps for your activity.
Director Brennan engages cadets during a visit to the United States Military Academy at West Point. (CIA)
CTC: What’s the current assessment of the Islamic State’s capability to put together international terrorist attacks?
Brennan: I think what they have demonstrated is the ability to put together a diversified investment portfolio, for lack of a better term. So it runs the gamut in terms of types of things that they’re trying to gain traction with. Whether it be the incitement that they can generate in the digital domain, motivating people who have had no interaction with their organization, or ever traveled maybe outside of their home community, all the way up to things that they’re trying to do in terms of moving operatives that have experience on the battlefields of Syria and training and directing them to be part of refugee or migrant flows, or finding ways to get into countries or return to their home countries and carry out attacks.
So it is the span of ISIL’s efforts that have led me to believe that they’re really not putting all their eggs in one basket and that their external operations group, which is based mainly in Syria in the Raqqa area, is really trying to generate activity. And we also see the increasing interaction between that external operations element and some of their franchises, whether it be Islamic State in West Africa, also known as Boko Haram, or inside the Sinai in Egypt or in South Asia. We see that interaction in terms of trying to get people to generate activity as a way to make sure that ISIL stays in the headlines and is seen as the premier group to attract the support of future adherents to terror.
CTC: Some of the interrogations of some Europeans who were part of the group suggest that the efforts on the external operations front were pretty ad hoc perhaps when compared to al-Qa`ida before 9/11 where there was a much more organized, sophisticated effort. Are you seeing increased sophistication when it comes to trying to put together these big plots against Europe and elsewhere?
Brennan: I think what I’ve seen in ISIL is that their ability to carry out some type of operation or attempt an operation takes place in a much more compressed timeframe than al-Qa`ida’s traditional way. You look at 9/11 and other major attacks, and it was very deliberate, methodical, a lot of planning went into it. I think ISIL tries to move from idea to bang within months or within weeks, again trying to take advantage of some opportunities that are out there. And although I am concerned that they are looking for attacks that could have strategic consequences, they see that the attacks in Paris and in Nice and other areas that can kill scores, through the actions of as few as one person, can be as effective and maybe even more psychologically damaging. So I do believe that that investment portfolio is one that looks at near-term returns as opposed to long-term returns. But I think they do have a smattering of it all.
CTC: And the type of training that they’re able to provide these European, Western recruits, and other recruits, compared to the tradecraft al-Qa`ida was able to impart on their operatives, say in Afghanistan, how does that compare, specifically with regard to bomb-making and operational security, encryption, and other related skills?
Brennan: Well, again, looking back over the last 15 years, there has been tremendous advances in technology, even tremendous advances in the fabrication of IEDs, in terms of going into the non-metallic realm, going into the increasing miniaturization of IEDs and different kinds of concealment methodologies. What we see also with ISIL is, given the large number of individuals that have come from Europe, these are individuals who typically have been on the fringe of society, were criminals, and were part of criminal gangs, and also have insight and access to a lot of the black markets, the grey markets that would sell weapons or other types of materiel. And they’ve been able to tap into that.
But al-Qa`ida really tried to compartmentalize what they were trying to do. They didn’t trust a lot of these other networks. They were always concerned mostly with the compartmentalization because they didn’t want their activity to be exposed. ISIL has a much more free-wheeling attitude. Ad hoc is a good way to say it. It’s whatever you can do to get to that bang as soon as possible, and if you kill only a couple, for them that’s okay. So again, it’s just trying to move things into the execution stage sooner. This has created significant challenges for the intelligence community. Al-Qa`ida, by contrast, was much more deliberate and still is much more deliberate as far as its external planning is concerned.
CTC: There’s been speculation the recent uptick of attacks in the West is linked to the increased pressure the Islamic State has been under in Iraq and Syria. Is that connection there? Or is that something they were always trying to do? Can we attach any type of strategic vision to these endeavors?
Brennan: In some respects, they’re similar to a startup in the business world. Their numbers in Iraq were down to 600 to 800 or so after they were pummeled by the U.S. military and others. They had very limited capability. And then all of a sudden, as a result of things that were going on inside of Iraq and Syria, they regained momentum. And they grew exponentially, which then led to the separation between ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra.
They were focused initially on local targets, and what ISIL had that al-Qa`ida really never had was a real anti-Shia engine. It was against the governments in both Baghdad and Damascus and was driven by that sectarian dimension. Once it got rolling, just like a startup organization that grows up quickly and has a lot more employees, it then started to diversify its business activity. And so that external operations element was almost a natural outgrowth of the growth of the organization itself. And so about a year and a half ago or two years ago, that’s when they really started to assign assets to focus on the external operations element to build a capability. And building that capability took some time.
Initially, I think there was a fair amount of gravitation to that activity by the foreign fighters who were from the U.K., France, and elsewhere. And it just grew and developed, and now it’s much more capable. It is developing some of those ad hoc opportunities, but also investing in things that will take time to develop. So I do think this is something that has happened over time.
I do not believe it is intended to offset their setbacks on the battlefield as some think. I think this has an engine of its own, and they want to have this type of prominence. They want to have this type of global reach. Might some of the setbacks in the battlefield encourage some to work harder to have some type of victory so that the headlines focus there? Sure. But I think that has an engine of its own. Even if they were successful in the battlefield, I think we would see the same type of activity going forward externally.
CTC: Given the Islamic State’s deep financial pockets, does the intelligence community need to think outside the box in terms of what the group could be capable of moving forward?
Brennan: Well, we try not to limit ourselves. I do disagree with the 9/11 Commission, which said it was a failure of imagination. I think CT officers, CT professionals are always thinking about what is it this group could try to do against us.
So how diabolical can they get? Well, attacking the streets of Paris was pretty diabolical. Is there something that they’re cooking up in some back room somewhere? We see that they’ve used chemical weapons on the battlefield, in terms of some of their production capabilities there. That’s more of a localized battlefield impact. I would not put anything past these individuals who are so depraved and are dedicated to mayhem and carnage.
CTC: What is your assessment of the state of jihadism in North Africa? Libya is often cited as the location of one of the Islamic State’s stronger provinces outside of the Levant, although more recently they’ve been under a lot more pressure there. What is your assessment of how they’re going to respond to this increased pressure and what role does Libya hold for the organization?
Brennan: What Libya holds is a fair amount of ungoverned space and a lack of any type of government or rule of law that can be felt throughout the country. But there are a lot of other places in North Africa and the Sahel that are of concern, too. One of the things that they’ve been able to capitalize on is they haven’t had to go in and create startups and find people. What they did was, again using a business analogy, mergers and acquisitions. So Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in Sinai all of a sudden became ISIL in the Sinai and the same thing with a lot of Ansar al-Sharia elements and al-Qa`ida remnants within Libya all of a sudden becoming ISIL there. And, of course, Boko Haram in Nigeria.
They’ve been able to capitalize on existing elements that were brought together because of this distorted and perverted view of what a religion calls them to do. I think there are fertile grounds there and throughout the African continent, in areas where corruption is rampant and governments often lack the ability to care for the basic needs of the people. And unfortunately, over the years, there really have not been secular, political movements that have attracted the disaffected and disenfranchised. It is the supposedly religiously based organizations with a very extremist ideology that have attracted individuals. And these groups, ISIL and others, have money and they can give food and weapons, shelter and camaraderie to individuals who have no other purpose (at least they think) in life. And so, even though we’ve pushed back ISIL in Syria and Iraq, the phenomenon that has been able to take advantage of a lot of these conditions, is still something that I don’t think we’ve been able to reverse.
CTC: One of the interesting things about the mergers and acquisitions model that you raise is the fact that these entities come with pre-existing relationships, histories, and objectives.
Brennan: And networks and financing.
CTC: Absolutely. It seems that the farther afield you get from the so-called caliphate, the more willing some of these entities are to work with groups that are otherwise competitors. And so when you look at the landscape of jihadist actors in North Africa, what is the potential for some of these groups, al-Qa`ida affiliates and Islamic State affiliates, to be more cooperative than they would be in the Levant?
Brennan: Absolutely, I think the farther away you get from that heartland of Syria and Iraq, the more likely you’re going to see collaboration between al-Qa`ida elements, ISIL elements, and others. We see it right now in Yemen. The number of al-Qa`ida elements in Yemen dwarfs the number of ISIL elements. But there are indications that, in fact, they’re working together. Because if you have a common enemy, unless there are some real serious organizational tensions, you don’t have that same type of separation in these other theaters.
CTC: What kind of cooperation are you detecting between ISIL and al-Qa`ida adherents inside Yemen?
Brennan: Well, we don’t see the fighting taking place between them. It’s the absence of that obvious tension that you see inside of Syria in places where Jabhat al-Nusra and Daesh are abutting one another. With the push that the Emiratis have made with the Yemeni government to push al-Qa`ida out of Mukalla, which is a large port city and was their center, they’ve moved into areas now where ISIL had some initial traction and support. Given that both ISIL and al-Qa`ida are now both fighting not just the Emiratis and the Yemeni military but also the Houthis and elements of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s group, there is a commonality of local interest. So what we see is cooperation on the tactical level in terms of their pushing back against their common domestic enemies. We’ll have to see whether or not that type of collaboration or non-confrontation is going to translate into collaboration on the external plotting side. I have not seen that.
CTC: What concerns you about the evolution of the jihadist threat in Yemen and Saudi Arabia?
Brennan: I think some of the individuals inside of Saudi Arabia that were prone to extremist sentiment and ideology were previously migrating toward the al-Qa`ida side of the spectrum, but are now very easily attracted to the ISIL side. And so ISIL has been able to capitalize on some of this sentiment. But the Saudis have very capable internal services. And although there have been some recent bombings, the Saudis have been able to prevent many more attacks than have taken place.
When it comes to Yemen, as long as the group still maintains al-Qa`ida in its name, I think we have to assume that there’s something that they’re planning against the West. They have suffered a number of setbacks because of just the internal turbulence inside of Yemen. But their master bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri is still at large. He is very sophisticated in terms of his concealment capabilities as well. I would not say for a minute that we aren’t worried about what AQAP might be planning to do. But a lot has happened inside of Yemen that I think has distracted or diluted maybe their path toward carrying out these attacks.
CTC: There’s been a lot of discussion and speculation about the nature of the relationship between the Islamic State and Boko Haram after the announcement of them becoming Wilayat West Africa. Some of the more recent discussion has been about a potential split within the organization.[b] What ties have you seen and what tangible benefits did Boko Haram get from this merger, or were they more limited?
Brennan: I would have to question if the Boko Haram that’s now the Islamic State of West Africa really has benefited from that. I think they were hoping to benefit from it. There may have been some monies, and there’s a brand that may have attracted some. But as you point out, there are some serious fissures within that organization now, and they are, in many respects, at each other’s throats. Some of this relates to individuals within the organizations who want to be ascendant, and it’s a personality issue and a conflict over who has command and control over the group. But I have not seen a great accrual of benefit to the Boko Haram organization from that association with ISIL.
CTC: Can you speak about the effectiveness of target killings as a CT tool and the impacts that has on the mortality of terrorist organizations? You and many other senior officials have talked about the fact that we can’t kill our way out of this conflict. Yet targeted killings remains a key pillar of our CT activities, presumably because it is seen as a valuable tool.
Brennan: Well, there are different types of individuals that play an important role in generating these types of terrorist attacks. You have the senior-most leaders. You have the bin Ladins, the Zawahiris, and others. You have the operational commanders. You have individuals who might be leading cells. And these are sometimes the brainchilds, the engineers, the orchestrators, the directors, and if they’re removed from the battlefield, then it has a dislocating impact on their operations. We have worked very closely with a lot of our partners to remove senior members of these terrorist organizations. I think one of the reasons we made such progress against al-Qa`ida core is because so many of those individuals who were part of that leadership team are no longer with us. And it has had a very disruptive impact on the organization.
We were talking about Yemen before, Zawahiri’s former deputy was [Nasir] al-Wuhayshi, who was also the head of AQAP. He was removed from the battlefield, and I do think that has had an impact on their ability to prosecute their efforts domestically as well as internationally. So we see that it is a setback. What we have found is if you take out a number of those leaders in fairly rapid succession, it can have an exponential impact in terms of dislocating the group. I think this is particularly important over the past dozen years or so as a lot of these terrorist organizations recognize that they are vulnerable to being attacked and that their communications are vulnerable to potential intercept, they have had to practice much greater operational security.
And so they have cutouts and more couriers than ever before. By doing that, it extends the timeline of any operational activity. You remove people from that network, you disrupt it, and it takes a while to repair it. So one of the objectives of counterterrorism professionals is to delay operations, to try to disrupt them, to push it off. Because the more you can disrupt and delay, the more opportunity you have to uncover and then thwart. So I think by taking people out of that chain of command, you really do disrupt things and you cause turbulence. And when you cause turbulence, sometimes you cause movement and mistakes on the part of the organization that you can take advantage of.
CTC: You recently commented that you questioned whether or not Syria could be put back together again. Would you attach that same statement to Iraq? How would you see the political future of Iraq?
Brennan: When I’m looking out in the future, I don’t know whether or not Syria and Iraq can be put back together again. There’s been so much bloodletting, so much destruction, so many continued, seething tensions and sectarian divisions. I question whether we will see, in my lifetime, the creation of a central government in both of those countries that’s going to have the ability to govern fairly. I could see some type of federal structure, so you have a central government but you’re also going to have maybe autonomous regions.
A lot depends on what happens in the next three to four years. But I don’t know whether we’re going to see central governments in either one of those countries that are going to have the same type of control. In some respects, we don’t want the central governments in both countries to have the same type of control because it was authoritarian, repressive control that was the reason why we’re facing the challenges we are now.
But to have representative governments, something akin to a Western-style democracy, is going to be difficult. We saw with the Arab Spring, people, including here in the United States, optimistically thinking, “Well, if you just move out those authoritarian leaders, democracy is going to flourish, and people will welcome the opportunity to have a fully participatory political system.” That ain’t the way it turned out.
CTC: What are the challenges going to be with taking back Mosul and Raqqa from the Islamic State?
Brennan: They’re dense urban environments. We’ve seen how difficult it was to liberate Manbij from Daesh, a city that was maybe 180,000 or so before the conflict started. You look at Raqqa, much larger than that, a very dense urban environment. Mosul, over a million. Will ISIL leave or will they hunker down and fight? And if they’re going to hunker down and fight, you’re going to have really difficult urban fighting that could lead to a lot of deaths, and there’s still a large number of civilians there, some kept hostage by ISIL.
It’ll be interesting to see how those civilians are going to react once there is an effort to liberate both those cities. I do think that there is going to be some bandwagon momentum once things really start to go south for ISIL. You’ll see more of the tribes in the area try to join a winner. I think a lot of them joined ISIL because they saw that they were winning. But now that that’s reversed, I think you’re going to see a fair amount of individuals who are going to flee ISIL.
CTC: How do you see the future threat from foreign fighters coming out of Syria and Iraq?
Brennan: Those not killed in the fighting are going to present a challenge for our governments for years to come. The numbers are just astronomical in terms of the thousands upon thousands of individuals that have gone in there. And will they be able to put their violent past behind them? A lot depends on sort of where they go and whether they feel as though they can be a part of society again. Was it just a temporary psychopathic journey that they can come out of?
CTC: How good a picture does your organization now have of the ISIL leadership, their modus operandi, and their organization?
Brennan: It’s still a difficult target. I would say it’s still a hard target given where they’re operating. But we have I think a much better picture than we did before. Do we have a sufficient picture? No. We need to have a good understanding, a better understanding of what is happening upstream, inside the Raqqas, the Mosuls, whatever else, and who’s who and what they’re doing and where they are so we can give our coalition partners the information they need in order to continue to prosecute this effort.
We need to understand who is downstream and the locations where they may be planning attacks. And then we need to know everything in between. It’s that area in between, that mid-stream, I think, that’s particularly important because that’s the area that we’re going to have the best chance to interdict and stop individuals as they move out—whether they’re moving out physically or whether they’re moving out in that digital environment. We need to be able to stop them before they get to the point where they already have acquired the gun or the automatic weapon in, say, Brussels. Once they get there, once they get into the execution window, the opportunity to stop them really narrows.
CTC: Is there one CT-related issue that has not been addressed appropriately in the public discourse or one issue that we should be thinking more about?
Brennan: There’s an understandable focus on the terrorists that are out there, the threat that they pose, and what we have done as a country to protect ourselves. What I think gets less attention and deserves much more are the people who actually carry out these counterterrorism activities and operations, from the collectors who are out there, to the analysts, to the experts that are informing our coalition partners. The CT professionals that are in the homeland security, intelligence, law enforcement, and military environments are some of the best and brightest, which is why, although I have concerns about what we’re still facing on the terrorism front, I have every confidence that we as a country are going to prevail. But it is going to take a while.
We’re facing a very challenging threat, but international cooperation is now stronger than it’s ever been before, particularly since ISIL reared its ugly head. Al-Qa`ida really presented a threat to the United States and maybe a couple of our allies. At the time, we’d go overseas and generate support in terms of what we were doing, but a lot of times their heart wasn’t in it because they weren’t in the crosshairs. Now, with the global phenomenon of ISIL and the fact that it has affected all of our lives in many respects due to events such as Paris, the environment has changed.
I give the example of even China, which is very concerned because the turbulence that has been created by terrorism is really disruptive to a lot of their economic and commercial interests. For example, they had to bring out thousands of Chinese workers out of Africa. So there is much more of a vested interest on the part of a lot of countries now to try to deal with what they see as this global terrorism problem. They’re really trying to understand what they can do and how they can play a role in the international architecture, and help ensure that we can share information very quickly so that we can stop a terrorist from carrying out an attack. I have regular discussions with our foreign partners, who are thirsting for more information but also for more training and more capability. And I think they see CIA and our intelligence partners as being the gold standard. I feel good about that.
[a] Director Brennan is referring to the conflict between Jabhat al-Nusra leader Abu Muhammad al-Julani and Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (also known as Abu Du’a).
[b] Indicative of this split, the Islamic State has announced a change of leadership in Wilayat West Africa. See Dionne Searcey, “Boko Haram Leader Speaks on YouTube, Deepening Signs of Split,” New York Times, August 4, 2016.