Who The Hell Is The Khorasan Group?

They were among our targets yesterday:

Tuesday’s attacks hit key Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) facilities as well as the little-known Khorasan Group, which is based in northwest Syria. But it is not yet clear to what extent the Khorasan leadership and operatives had been taken out in the attacks. The joint staff director of operations Lieut. General William Mayville said the U.S. was still “assessing the effects of the strikes.”

Aron Lund’s provides background on the group:

What is being discussed is not a “new terrorist group,” but rather a specialized cell that has gradually been established within, or on, the fringes of an already existing al-Qaeda franchise, the so-called Nusra Front. What this seems to be about is a jihadi cell consisting of veteran al-Qaeda members who have arrived to the Nusra Front in Syria from abroad, mainly via Iran, and who are in direct contact with al-Qaeda’s international leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, himself believed to be based in Pakistan.

Foreign Policy asks how big a threat the group poses:

“In terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a conference in Washington last week. But according to the top U.S. counterterrorism official, as well as Obama himself, there is “no credible information” that the militants of the Islamic State were planning to attack inside the United States. Although the group could pose a domestic terrorism threat if left unchecked, any plot it tried launching today would be “limited in scope” and “nothing like a 9/11-scale attack,” Matthew Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in remarks at the Brookings Institution earlier this month. That would suggest that Khorasan doesn’t have the capability either, even if it’s working to develop it.

“Khorasan has the desire to attack, though we’re not sure their capabilities match their desire,” a senior U.S. counterterrorism official told Foreign Policy.

What Eli Lake is hearing:

The Khorasan Group has been experimenting with different types of non-metallic explosives for attacks on Western targets, according to U.S. intelligence officials. Most of the members of the group come from Yemen, Afghanistan, or Pakistan and have for months been coordinating with bomb-makers drawn from al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula, the most persistent and creative of al Qaeda groups in efforts to bomb U.S.-bound passenger jets.

ISIS and al Qaeda bitterly split earlier this year, and have since attacked one another on occasions. But some analysts now fear that striking at ISIS and al Qaeda could persuade the two groups to put aside their sharp differences and come together. Indeed, jihadist ideologues loyal to both warring factions have had similar messages for their followers in the wake of the airstrikes.