Former CIA Director: Al Qaeda in Yemen and Pakistan 'A Bigger Threat' Than ISIS

By Susan Jones | February 9, 2015 | 7:46am EST

Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell. (AP File Photo)

( - ISIS is not the biggest threat to the United States at the moment, says Michael Morell, the former deputy director of the CIA under President Obama.

"[D]oes ISIS pose a threat to the United States? Absolutely," Morell told CBS's "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer. "Does it pose a threat to the order in the Middle East and the borders and the whole system in the Middle East? Absolutely. But is it the biggest threat to the homeland right now? No. AQAP in Yemen is a bigger threat. Al Qaeda in Pakistan is a bigger threat.

And the Khorasan group, which is a part of the al-Nusra group in Syria, which is separate from ISIS, is a bigger threat right now. So, perspective is really important here," Morell told host Bob Schieffer.

Morell did not explain how those groups are a bigger threat, but others have noted that al Qaeda remains determined to bomb airplanes and attack the U.S. homeland, while ISIS/ISIL is intent on acquiring territory to set up its own state.

Morell said the U.S. has had limited success in stopping ISIS/ISIL: After six months of air strikes, "we have stopped the we have stopped the ISIS blitzkrieg across Iraq. We stopped it in its tracks, right? They have gained no more territory since we started these airstrikes.

"If we had not done this, they would be in Baghdad today, right? That's our significant victory here. And we are going to have to push them back. That's going to take some time. It's going to take training of Iraqi troops. It's going to be figuring out a strategy in Syria."

Right now, the U.S. doesn't have a Syria strategy, Morell admitted. "I don't think we have quite figured that out yet."

He noted that the U.S. hasn't even started training Syria's so-called "moderate opposition." He said more than 5,000 Syrians will be needed to degrade and destroy ISIS:

"And we have to get Syria right, because if we don't get Syria right, then ISIS will simply come across that border as we have success in Iraq. And we wouldn't really have gained anything."

Morell said ISIS has scored a "big victory" in spreading its message quickly and widely. "So now you have terrorist groups in Algeria, in Libya, and in Egypt, and increasingly in Afghanistan who are taking on the ISIS brand.

"We had one of those groups just 10 days ago attack a hotel in Tripoli and kill an American. And we have also this Western Europe and Australia and Canada. That's all ISIS-related. That's been their big victory here."

McCaul: ISIS 'far more dangerous' than al Qaeda

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told CBS that ISIS/ISIL does pose a threat to the American homeland, and the Obama administration is not taking that threat seriously enough.

"Al Qaeda denounced them (ISIS) because they're so brutal in their tactics. But they are a governing, functioning caliphate now. They own territory. They own -- they have lot of money. And so they are far more dangerous I think than al Qaeda has ever been.

"They're a lot better organized. If you look at their social media propaganda, like the film of the Jordanian pilot, it is so sophisticated, and they send that out over the world to sort of inflame the potential radicalized Islam world, that we -- we are worried about not only the foreign fighters, but also the homegrown violent extremists that can look over the Internet and get radicalized over the Internet here in the United States."

McCaul said he believes the U.S. airstrikes have had "limited success."

"It's a policy of containment, not a policy to degrade and destroy the enemy." He said he hopes the torture and murder of a Jordanian pilot will "galvanize" Arab nations to fight ISIS, including on the ground: "It's also the United States' fight, because we don't want them to attack us here on the homeland."

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