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US Intel: ISIS, al Qaeda, Hamas, & Hezbollah

The annual U.S. assessment covers global terrorist threats and the impact of the Gaza war.

Emblems of U.S. intelligence agencies
Emblems of U.S. intelligence agencies

On March 11, 2024, the annual US intelligence assessment reported that the regional affiliates of ISIS and al Qaeda are likely to expand in the future, despite leadership losses. The rival Islamist groups, which are both Sunni, are also likely to continue targeting US citizens and Western interests more broadly even as the Sunni global jihad shifts to Africa. “This threat is mostly likely to manifest in small cells or individuals inspired by foreign terrorist organizations and violent extremist ideologies to conduct attacks,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) warned. The report also highlighted the capabilities of Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite group backed by Iran, to target Americans worldwide. 

The war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas may “have a generational impact on terrorism,” Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines warned the Senate Intelligence Committee. Al Qaeda and ISIS have “directed supporters to conduct attacks against Israeli and U.S. interests.” The following are excerpts from the 2024 assessment. 

Global Terrorism

U.S. persons and interests at home and abroad will face an ideologically diverse threat from terrorism. This threat is mostly likely to manifest in small cells or individuals inspired by foreign terrorist organizations and violent extremist ideologies to conduct attacks. While al-Qa‘ida has reached an operational nadir in Afghanistan and Pakistan and ISIS has suffered cascading leadership losses in Iraq and Syria, regional affiliates will continue to expand. These gains symbolize the shift of the center of gravity in the Sunni global jihad to Africa.

  • Terrorists will maintain an interest in conducting attacks using chemical, biological and radioactive materials against U.S. persons, allies, and interests worldwide. Terrorists from diverse ideological backgrounds continue to circulate instructions of varied credibility for the procurement or production of toxic or radioactive weapons using widely available materials in social media and online fora. 


ISIS will remain a centralized global organization even as it has been forced to rely on regional branches in response to successive leadership losses during the past few years. External capabilities vary across ISIS’s global branches, but the group will remain focused on attempting to conduct and inspire global attacks against the West and Western interests.

  • ISIS–Greater Sahara and ISIS–West Africa contribute to and capitalize on government instability, communal conflict, and anti-government grievances to make gains in Nigeria and the Sahel. 
  • ISIS-Khorasan is trying to conduct attacks that undermine the legitimacy of the Taliban regime by expanding attacks against foreign interests in Afghanistan. 


Al-Qa‘ida’s regional affiliates on the African continent and Yemen will sustain the global network as the group maintains its strategic intent to target the United States and U.S. citizens. Al-Qa‘ida senior leadership has not yet announced the replacement for the former emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, reflecting the regionally focused and decentralized nature of the organization. 

  • Al-Shabaab continues to advance its attack capabilities by acquiring weapons systems while countering a multinational CT campaign, presenting a risk to U.S. personnel. In 2023, al-Shabaab also expanded its operations in Northeast Kenya. 


Lebanese Hizballah will continue to develop its global terrorist capabilities as a complement to the group’s growing conventional military capabilities in the region. Since October 2023, Hizballah has conducted attacks along Israel’s northern border to tie down Israeli forces as they seek to eliminate HAMAS in Gaza. Hizballah probably will continue to conduct provocative actions such as rocket launches against Israel throughout the conflict.

  • Hizballah seeks to limit U.S. influence in Lebanon and the broader Middle East, and maintains the capability to target U.S. persons and interests in the region, worldwide, and, to a lesser extent, in the United States. 

Gaza Conflict

The HAMAS attack against Israel in October 2023 and Israel’s responding military campaign in Gaza has increased tensions throughout the region as Iranian proxies and partners conduct anti-U.S. and anti-Israel attacks, both in support of HAMAS and to pressure the United States. Media coverage of the destruction and loss of life are being amplified by active social media campaigns on all sides, roiling public reactions among neighboring countries and around the world. Israel will face mounting international pressure because of the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, and Iranian-backed attacks will jeopardize stability in Lebanon, Iraq, the Gulf, and the Red Sea. The risk of escalation into direct interstate conflict, intended or otherwise, remains high.

  • The Gaza conflict is posing a challenge to many key Arab partners, who face public sentiment against Israel and the United States for the death and destruction in Gaza, but also see the United States as the power broker best positioned to deter further aggression and end the conflict before it spreads deeper into the region. 

Israel and Iran are trying to calibrate their actions against each other to avoid escalation into a direct full-scale conflict. We assess that Iranian leaders did not orchestrate nor had foreknowledge of the HAMAS attack against Israel.

Since October 2023, Iran has encouraged and enabled its various proxies and partners—including Hizballah, Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Syria, and the Huthis in Yemen—to conduct strikes against Israeli or U.S. interests in the region.

  • Hizballah is calibrating this pressure on Israel from the north while trying to avoid a broader war that would devastate Hizballah and Lebanon. Hizballah’s leadership, though, probably will consider a range of retaliatory options depending on Israel’s actions in Lebanon during the upcoming year. 
  • In Iraq, Iranian-aligned militias almost certainly will continue attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. 
  • The Huthi’s continued ballistic missile, cruise missile, and UAV attacks against merchant vessels transiting the Red Sea, which are disrupting international shipping, and on Israel create a real risk of broader escalation. 

Both al-Qa‘ida and ISIS, inspired by the HAMAS attack against Israel, have directed their supporters to conduct attacks against Israeli and U.S. interests. The HAMAS attack is encouraging individuals to conduct acts of antisemitic and Islamophobic terror worldwide and is galvanizing individuals to leverage the Palestinian plight for recruitment and inspiration to conduct attacks. The Nordic Resistance Movement—a transnational neo-Nazi organization—publicly praised the attack, illustrating the conflict’s appeal to a range of threat actors. 

In regard to Gaza, Jerusalem remains focused on destroying HAMAS, which its population broadly supports. Moreover, Israel probably will face lingering armed resistance from HAMAS for years to come, and the military will struggle to neutralize HAMAS’s underground infrastructure, which allows insurgents to hide, regain strength, and surprise Israeli forces. 

The governance and security structures in Gaza and the West Bank as well as the resolution of the humanitarian situation in Gaza and rebuilding will be key components of the long-term Israeli–Palestinian relationship.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has publicly stated his opposition to postwar diplomacy with the Palestinian Authority (PA) toward territorial compromise.
  • Netanyahu’s viability as leader as well as his governing coalition of far-right and ultraorthodox parties that pursued hardline policies on Palestinian and security issues may be in jeopardy. Distrust of Netanyahu’s ability to rule has deepened and broadened across the public from its already high levels before the war, and we expect large protests demanding his resignation and new elections. A different, more moderate government is a possibility.

HAMAS’s and the PA’s continued animosity will be a factor in governance outcomes as will HAMAS’s broad popular support. Much also will hinge on Israel’s decisions regarding how to deal with Gaza in the aftermath of its campaign as well as scale and scope of its support for the PA.




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