America is vulnerable to attack by Islamic extremists from a southern flank but not where you think according to US Southern Command chief General John Kelly who oversees security in the Caribbean Sea and all lands south of Mexico.
The number of ISIS devotees living in or coming from the Caribbean is rising he said.
He said top ISIS leaders in a “few very, very radical mosques” in the region are directing wannabe terrorists to direct attacks from their homes instead of traipsing to the Middle East.
The numbers aren’t large but they are growing.
“It seems like the Islamic extremists and terrorists have shifted a lot of their message, and that is, ‘Hey, rather than come to Syria, why don’t you stay at home and do San Bernardino, or do Boston, or do Fort Hood?’” Kelly said Friday at a Pentagon press briefing.
About 150 radicals have left from the Caribbean to join ISIS in the last year.
The Marine Corps four-star general said he was particularly worried that “nuts can cause an awful lot of trouble down in the Caribbean” because small island nations like Jamaica lack law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI or the Transportation Security Administration, and many of them have “very, very small militaries, if they have militaries at all.”
Earlier this year, Kelly said, “While in Syria, they get good at killing and pick up some real job skills in terms of explosives and beheadings, things like that,” he said during a press briefing in March. “Everyone is concerned, of course, if they come home. If they went over radicalized, one would expect they will come back at least that radicalized but … with really good job skills that they picked up in the fight.”
“If they get back to some of these countries … it’s pretty easy for them to move around,” the general added.
That’s not to say the US-Mexico border isn’t a concern.
In July, 2014, General Kelly said America’s porous southern border and the recent surge in illegal immigration is more than just a “humanitarian crisis,” it’s a threat to the United States’ very existence.
In regards to the drug trade, murder rates and terrorist activity brewing in Central America, Kelly says, the waves of Latin Americans sweeping through Mexico and illegally into Texas presents a threat to the U.S. every bit as serious as Iran or North Korea.
“In comparison to other global threats, the near collapse of societies in [this] hemisphere with the associated drug and [illegal immigrant] flow are frequently viewed to be of low importance,” Kelly said in an interview with Defense One. “Many argue these threats are not existential and do not challenge our national security. I disagree.”