22:34 GMT26 January 2020
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    A top former American intelligence official has issued a damning critique of the current US intelligence agencies, saying they have failed to understand the nature of ISIL, endangering the US and wider world.

    Derek Harvey is a security expert who worked as an intelligence agent and was director of Afghanistan-Pakistan for the Pentagon's Central Command. 

    Speaking to the Telegraph, he said the CIA other agencies have been naive about ISIL and still don't understand how the extremist group operates.

    "John Brennan [the CIA director] and others continue to underestimate ISIL and not understand their intent. I don't even know if they read Dabiq [ISIL's propaganda magazine] or their speeches closely," Mr Harvey said.

    Harvey also criticized the reliance on the 'lone wolf' narrative as an explanation for terror attacks.

    He said most perpetrators of attacks in the West were incorporated in some way into a command structure.

    "Their intent is to strike with organized decentralized operations focused on the West," he said. 

    "This isn't just lone wolves inspired by propaganda. This is coordinated."

    He claims that there is an institutional problem within American intelligence of concentrating "on bigger high profile attacks."

    To many analysts, the legacy of 9/11 has cast a long shadow over the way Americans view national security threats.

    Mr Harvey believes that this is flawed as he sees ISIL increasingly move to operate with smaller, but multiple attacks.  

    "ISIL understand that it doesn't have to be a complicated and or complex operation like 9/11. ISIL will put a bomb in a taxi and then send the taxi someplace, and [the] driver won't know he is carrying the explosive."

    There have already been acknowledgements of US security failings this year.

    In September, US President Barack Obama admitted that the American intelligence services had overlooked developments in Syria.

    He said that although many Islamic militants went underground when US Marines drove back al-Qaeda in Iraq, some have been able to return due to the instability that was left to grow in Syria.

    "But over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos," Obama said.

    "And so this became ground zero for jihadists around the world."

    On Tuesday, the US issued a worldwide travel alert for its citizens. In a sign of how difficult it is for intelligence agencies to anticipate future terror attacks, the alert is "for multiple regions" until February 2016.


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