Al-Qa'ida/ISIS: Not Attempting to Recruit in US Military

Al-Qa’ida and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are not systematically trying to recruit US military personnel because both groups can draw in coveted military and tactical skills from local populations and they probably fear US infiltration through overt outreach. Rather than targeted pleas to US military servicemen and women, al-Qa’ida and ISIS prefer broader appeals to adherents through established radical propaganda outlets.

  • A NJOHSP review of terrorist propaganda over the last five years revealed only one explicit attempt—by radical cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi in May 2010—to recruit US military personnel. All US servicemen charged with plotting or conducting attacks on behalf of al-Qa’ida or ISIS since 11 September 2001 were self-radicalized, and their contact with terrorist groups was self-initiated.
     
  • According to open-source reporting, as of January, approximately one-third of ISIS’s chief deputies are former officers in the Iraqi Republican Guard. In September, a US military official noted that al-Qa’ida regularly attacked Pakistani military facilities and personnel with the aid of serving and retired members of the Pakistani military, according to Western press.
     
  • According to the Congressional Research Service, approximately six self-radicalized US military members have plotted terrorist acts with undercover US Government investigators, believing they were acting on behalf of al-Qa’ida or ISIS. For example, in March, John T. Booker Jr. intended to detonate a vehicle-borne IED at Fort Riley, Kansas on behalf of ISIS, but his plan was thwarted because he interacted with undercover officers online.

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For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at analysis@njohsp.gov or 609-584-4000.