U.S. intelligence agencies are scrutinizing a new terror group in Iraq amid concerns that the organization might become a regional successor to ISIS.
Since late 2017, an armed group called White Flag has been operating in areas of northwestern and central Iraq, and appears to be a partnership between Kurdish terrorists and former ISIS fighters who have adopted the jihadist ideology of the Islamic State.
“It’s kind of a hodge-podge of people and a white flag with a lion on it is their emblem,” said a military official familiar with the region.
Little is known about White Flag, but the group is believed to pose a threat to the areas in Iraq where it has operated. They are not currently capable of conducting terror attacks outside of the country, The Washington Free Beacon reported.
Officials estimate that White Flag has anywhere from 100 to 1,000 terrorist members.
The Iraqi government is concerned about White Flag and Iraqi government-supported Popular Mobilization Forces militias in the region are reportedly fighting against the group.
There are concerns in the Pentagon that White Flag might become “ISIS 2.0,” a defense official said. White Flag would then become the third iteration of the al Qaeda terrorist organization. Even so, the official noted that White Flag is unlikely to eclipse ISIS, but does have the potential to become a model for smaller, ISIS-affiliated terror groups.
Following three years of fighting, ISIS has been largely defeated in Iraq, although intelligence officials warn that they are regrouping in the country, as well as Syria, and spreading worldwide.
“Over the next year, we expect that ISIS is likely to focus on regrouping in Iraq and Syria, enhancing its global presence, championing its cause, planning international attacks, and encouraging its members and sympathizers to attack in their home countries,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in congressional testimony Feb. 13.
“ISIS core has started—and probably will maintain—a robust insurgency in Iraq and Syria as part of a long-term strategy to ultimately enable the reemergence of its so-called caliphate,” Coats added.
Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, warned of the continuing danger of ISIS and said that the group is going underground.
“ISIS members are dispersing and prioritizing clandestine terrorist operations to preserve their core capabilities,” he said, adding that the group “remains capable of executing complex, destabilizing terrorist attacks.”
“In addition, ISIS probably will seek to establish a foothold in other ungoverned or under-governed spaces with populations that are sympathetic to the Salafi jihadist ideology, ” Ashley said.
US intelligence closely watching new shadowy terror group in Iraq called White Flag. Is it ISIS 2.0 or false flag operation? https://t.co/PcGkDeqaKk
— Bill Gertz (@BillGertz) March 14, 2018
— ela (@elaveillehuma) March 6, 2018