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TAUBE: Al Qaeda 2.0

Terrorists are on the move and the president is out to lunch

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What if I told you the vicious terrorist organization al Qaeda had returned to the national scene, and the White House had reportedly allowed it to happen? Like most Americans, you would be furious at President Obama — and worried about the safety and security of the nation.

Well, here's the bad news. It appears to be true.

Ali Soufan, an author and former FBI supervisory special agent, recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal that "U.S. intelligence recently intercepted communications among senior al Qaeda operatives suggesting that they are planning attacks this month on embassies and other Western targets." This probably came as a shock to some people: Mr. Obama and others have repeatedly claimed the terrorist group "has been nearly destroyed."

Not according to Mr. Soufan. As he wrote, the "disconnect lies in our failure to appreciate that while al Qaeda central has been badly weakened by U.S. counterterrorism efforts, the group was never close to being extinguished. It adapted. It gave greater power to semi-independent affiliates, such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, and to more loosely connected groups, like Boko Haram in Nigeria."

How on earth could this have happened? In Mr. Soufan's view, the West "made the mistake of failing to effectively tackle these affiliates and their propaganda, dismissing them as local problems irrelevant to the war against al Qaeda." Hence, while AQAP and Boko Haram "initially did focus their violence locally, terrorists who endorse Osama bin Laden's jihadist message inevitably move on to the global war against the West."

In other words, al Qaeda has seemingly morphed into al Qaeda 2.0. The restructured outfit is more diverse and more focused squarely on global terrorism. Western democracies such as the United States will surely have to maintain a high terrorism alert for the foreseeable future. Mr. Obama must accept his fair share of the blame.

The president and his Cabinet obviously recognize that terrorist groups exist in our midst. If this wasn't the case, he wouldn't have given the order for Operation Neptune Spear — the black-ops mission to track and kill Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

Rather, the long-standing problem has been Mr. Obama's soft approach to totalitarian regimes and rogue nations. Since winning the 2008 presidential election, he has repeatedly tried to glad-hand and grandstand when it comes to ridding the country of terrorist threats.

Awhile back, Mr. Obama made this infamous comment: "Strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries." It seems like he would gladly put out a tray of tea and cookies — or a few bottles of his favorite beer, Yuengling — and meet with bloodthirsty individuals who want to destroy the treasured concepts of freedom, liberty and democracy. He even removed the powerful term "war on terrorism" from the American lexicon and replaced it with "overseas contingency operation." I'm sure this inane phrase has struck fear in the hearts of ruthless terrorist leaders and tinpot dictators.

Mr. Obama has, therefore, left the door wide open for terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda to regroup and get stronger. That's not the way to deal with Islamic terrorism, however. It has to be dealt with head-on, and the president can't pussyfoot his way around this issue as he has for the better part of five years in the White House.

Mr. Obama and the White House can't open direct negotiations with groups that have been brainwashed to believe Western democracies are the root of all evil. They must be fought tooth and nail until they are gone for good. It could take one year or a thousand years. Regardless of the time frame and, I hate to say it, the huge financial and personal cost involved, this president — and other presidents who follow him — simply don't have a choice in the matter.

In my view, Mr. Obama needs to get much tougher when it comes to terrorism. Put away the friendly handshakes, and get down to the business of increasing military resources and personnel to research, locate and hunt down this evil scourge. This can include everything from an increased U.S. presence in unsafe parts of the world to the implementation of a wider spy network to report back on the comings and goings of terrorist groups.

That's the way to win the war on terrorism. Whether the president likes it or not, that's what the United States is fighting right now.

Michael Taube is a former speechwriter for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a contributor to The Washington Times.

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