Top General Warns of New ISIS Threat on US Southern Border
Policy + Politics

Top General Warns of New ISIS Threat on US Southern Border

flickr/Chris Ford

America is vulnerable to attack by Islamic extremists from a southern flank, and it’s not the U.S./Mexico border, a top general says.

The number of ISIS devotees living in or coming from the Caribbean is on the rise, according to U.S. Southern Command chief Gen. John Kelly, who oversees security throughout South America.

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He said he has seen a shift in rhetoric by top ISIS leaders geared toward a “few very, very radical mosques” in the region, essentially directing would-be disciples to direct attacks from their homes rather than trek to the Middle East and risk capture by law enforcement.

“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.

He estimated that the number of radicals who left the region to join the group has risen from 100 to 150 over the last year.

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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.”

Kelly, who will retire later this year after more than 40 years in uniform, first sounded the alarm about the Caribbean threat earlier this year.

“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.

Kelly’s latest remarks are sure to be added by President Obama’s critics to the litany of reasons why they believe he doesn’t have the right strategy to destroy the terror network.