President Obama has dialed back his earlier optimistic assessment of global efforts to defeat al Qaeda. Instead of nearing defeat, the terrorist group is planting new roots in North Africa and the Middle East.
While running for re-election two years ago, Mr. Obama suggested the war against al Qaeda was nearly won. U.S. counterterrorism efforts against the group led by Osama bin Laden had produced results, he said during his nomination speech on Sept. 6, 2012.
“A new tower rises above the New York skyline, al Qaeda is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead,” the president told cheering Democrats.
In his fifth State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, Mr. Obama offered a pessimistic analysis in a five-sentence mention of al Qaeda.
Today, the al Qaeda danger “remains,” he said. “While we’ve put al Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks. In Syria, we’ll support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks.”
Counterterrorism officials tell Inside the Ring that the president’s policies have increased the danger of al Qaeda terrorism against the U.S. and its allies.
Libya and other parts of North Africa have become an “al Qaeda safe haven,” said one official. And al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula continues to pose a serious threat to the Yemeni government, despite U.S. covert and overt support, including drone strikes.
Additionally, the Obama administration, fearing backlash from Muslims, has no ideological programs against Islamist extremism like those used during the Cold War to defeat the Soviet Union.
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper told a Senate hearing Wednesday that the al Qaeda threat is serious: “There are some five different franchises, at least, and 12 countries that this movement has morphed into, and we see sort of chapters of it, of course, in Yemen, Somalia, North Africa, in Syria, etc.”
The Pentagon’s Defense Science Board has complimented a Georgetown University arms control project for “crowdsourcing” commercial imagery and other open source data to reveal secrets about China’s expanding nuclear arms program.
In a report made public last week on monitoring nuclear arms proliferation, the Board stated that commercial imagery analysis by nongovernmental experts should be used for identifying nuclear programs and the threat of proliferation. The report urged using the method despite concerns that crowdsourcing often produces lower quality data and analysis.
One example of a crowdsourcing success was the Georgetown University arms control project headed by Phillip Karber, who, with the help of students, exposed for the first time new details of China’s 3,000-mile-long network of tunnels for nuclear weapons.
The project began in 2008, and by late 2009, China for the first time went public with some details about what has come to be known as the “Great Underground Wall” of nuclear facilities.
“Using open source information for the past several years — the Internet, local Chinese news reports, Google Earth and online photos posted by Chinese citizens — the students have published a far-reaching paper that challenges assumptions made by the [intelligence community] on China’s nuclear weapons capability,” the report said.