Chemical Biological Hazards

*ANSWER THIS QUESTION 250 words min**

Evaluate the arguments and evidence that terrorist groups are likely or unlikely to use CBRN weapons.  In particular, what do you think are the prospects for ISIS and/or other sub-state actors to acquire and use a CBRN weapon in a foreign country? In the United States? Why or why not?


1. After this week’s readings I would say that it is highly unlikely, but not impossible, for a terrorist group to use CBRN weapons.  There just seem to be too many factors going against terrorists when it comes to the production and acquisition of CBRN weaponry.  A terrorist group would first need the expertise in their members to prepare the CBRN materials.  They would also need the special equipment and resources needed to produce CBRN material, which they do not have.  The materials needed are usually very hard to obtain as they are closely monitored for security reasons and antiterrorism efforts.  I do feel, however, that if a terrorist group had the resources and capabilities to acquire a CBRN weapon, they would not hesitate for a second to use it.  It would be a very effective tool for terrorism as it has the ability to cause mass panic and mass casualties.

Speaking specifically about ISIS, I believe they do have the finances and connections to pose a legitimate threat of obtain and using CBRN weapons.  I do not think they have the capabilities to produce their own, but they could acquire such weapons by other means.  The most plausible way would be from other countries who have stockpiles of CBRN munitions, either through theft or illegal purchase.  With that being said, if a terrorist group such as ISIS were to poses such a weapon, I do think they would be able to use it in a foreign country.  However, I do not think they would be able to use it on the United States as our border and coastal security is superior and getting such a weapon even remotely close to the U.S. would be nearly impossible in itself.


Mauroni, A. (2010). Homeland Insecurity: Thinking About CBRN Terrorism. Homeland Security Affairs. Retrieved October 05, 2020, from

2. To start off, I would just like to say it’s refreshing to discuss CBRN weapons rather than simply “WMDs”. As our reading from Mauroni attests, WMD is a very unclear term, while CBRN states specifically what we are discussing.

It seems to me that the evidence clearly shows both intent and capability of terrorist groups to utilize CBRN weapons. In our current threat environment, we have seen ISIS show a significant technical proficiency in utilizing chemical weapons, including developing chemical mortar rounds. This was the first time the world saw a non-state entity with the engineering capability to not only develop chemical weapons, but pair them with a stand-off projectile delivery system (Strack, 2017). Even before that, Al-Qaeda attempted to purchase weapons-grade Uranium from a Sudanese military officer in 1993, and in 2006 a plot by a Russian national to sell weapons-grade uranium was thwarted (Sinai, 2007).

The fact is, the world has created a perfect storm for CBRN terrorism. With the Middle East, Africa, and parts of Eastern Europe in varying degrees of upheaval, there are plenty of areas for terrorists to operate, develop, and train with CBRN weapons. When the possibility of governments weakened by ongoing conflict is added into the equation, the possibility of CBRN proliferation becomes a likelihood.

The question then becomes, how likely is a terrorist group to export a CBRN weapon from one of those unstable areas where they can exist unchecked to a country with a strong anti-terrorist capability? Again, one has to examine the global climate. Mass numbers of refugees fleeing conflict provide a perfect cover for terrorist infiltration. Governments naturally have to relax border controls to take in large numbers of refugees, so the opportunity for importing such weapons clearly exists. When the fact that the global economy also relies on free trade is considered, the picture is clear: terrorists can commit such an attack, and they have demonstrated clear intent to do so.