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Yes, the ISIS threat to America is very real

ISIS’s attacks in Paris, the deadliest targeting of civilians in France since the end of World War II, will change the political and security landscape of Europe irrevocably.

President François Hollande has promised a merciless response. Borders have been sealed — in direct contravention of the Maastricht agreement signed more than 20 years ago that within the European Union, national boundaries would be dissolved.

And most consequential in the short term, since it now appears that at least one of the terrorists posed as a refugee, Western governments are reassessing their immigration policies.

But what does this mean for the United States? Is America less vulnerable because of the greater distance between our country and the ravaged territories of the Middle East and North Africa?

Recent trends in law enforcement and intelligence indicate that we aren’t safer. On the contrary: The probability of a Paris-style attack has dramatically increased.

As part of its support to law enforcement, the Threat Knowledge Group has been collecting and analyzing the open-source information on ISIS arrests in the United States. Since ISIS, the organization that used to be al Qaeda in Iraq, captured the city of Mosul last year and declared the creation of the new caliphate, scores of people have been arrested in America in plots connected to the new “Islamic State,” and FBI Director James Comey has already testified that there are ongoing ISIS investigations in all 50 states.

But more importantly, in just a 20-month period, 74 adults and eight minors have been interdicted by law enforcement for connections to ISIS, including four killed on US soil. These numbers translate to a 300 percent increase in terrorist arrests in the United States compared to the average monthly arrests of al Qaeda suspects since the 9/11 attacks of 2001.

These numbers translate to a 300 percent increase in terrorist arrests in the United States compared to the average monthly arrests of al Qaeda suspects since the 9/11 attacks of 2001.

On the one hand, this is a good thing, since we’re arresting dozens and dozens of terrorists before they can actually execute a deadly attack like the recent Paris atrocity.

But on the other hand, we wouldn’t have to be arresting these jihadists if ISIS wasn’t recruiting them so efficiently and effectively that they’re finding three times as many willing volunteers as al Qaeda ever did.

But there’s one truly disturbing facet of the increased arrests. Poring over the open-source details of the indictments and subsequent official reports, we find the following:

Of all those intercepted, almost half (48 percent) were planning to leave the country and fight for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and ISIS in the Middle East. These are the people who belong to the category the FBI euphemistically refers to as “travelers.”

Another 19 percent were arrested for being facilitators, the talent-spotters who weren’t going to fight themselves, but who identified potential jihadi recruits and eventually provided assistance for them to be “deployed” as terrorist operatives.

But the majority of the remaining ISIS suspects, a full 28 percent — or almost a third of all those arrested in the United States — weren’t secondary facilitators or had any intention of leaving the United States to fight for ISIS in Iraq or Syria.

These people had decided that the most effective way for them to serve Allah and ISIS leader Abu Bakr would be to kill Americans here on US soil. By bringing the war to the “infidel” in his homeland, they would better serve the new theocratic empire of Islam and strike terror into the heartland of the enemy.

These people had decided that the most effective way for them to serve Allah and ISIS leader Abu Bakr would be to kill Americans here on US soil.

To this we must add the unclassified estimates that put the number of foreign fighters globally recruited by ISIS at more than 22,000. Of those, 4,000 are estimated to be Westerners — including Americans — on Western passports that allow them full freedom of movement. As a result, the threat to America is clear.

Paris won’t be the last event of its kind, and America isn’t immune from such horrific scenarios. Since the caliphate was declared last year, ISIS has upped its game. If there ever was a JV team, it clearly wasn’t ISIS, but rather al Qaeda.

As a result, it’s more important than ever that the Islamic State be taken seriously as a threat not just to our partners in the Middle East or our allies in Europe, but to America herself.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka is the Maj. Gen. Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military History at the US Marine Corps University. Katharine C. Gorka is the president of Threat Knowledge Group, McLean, Va. http://thegorkabriefing.com/

First published in the New York Post on 18 November 2015