- The Washington Times - Friday, August 9, 2013

Facing more questions about his handling of the war against Islamist terrorists, President Obama said Friday the U.S. will “never” wipe out terrorism completely and he claimed a personal victory in the killing of Osama bin Laden.

“This is an ongoing process,” the president told a White House press conference of the fight against terrorists. “We are not going to completely eliminate terrorism. What we can do is to weaken it and to strengthen our partnerships in such a way that it does not pose the kind of horrible threat that we saw on 9/11.”

Mr. Obama said the closing of more than 20 U.S. embassies and consulates across Africa and the Middle East this month because of a terrorist threat doesn’t conflict with his claim in a speech in May that the core of al Qaeda has been “decimated.”

“What I also said was that al Qaeda and other extremists have metastasized into regional groups that can pose significant dangers,” Mr. Obama said. “They have the capacity to go after our embassies. They have the capacity, potentially, to go after our businesses.”

Mr. Obama didn’t mention that bin Laden’s successor at al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is believed to have given the orders for the latest planned attacks in coordination with the terror network’s offshoots such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The president defended his earlier assertions that the U.S. has dealt a severe blow to the core of bin Laden’s group.

“It’s entirely consistent to say that this tightly organized and relatively centralized al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11 has been broken apart and is very weak and does not have a lot of operational capacity and to say we still have these regional organizations, like AQAP, that can pose a threat, that can drive potentially a truck bomb into an embassy wall and can kill some people,” Mr. Obama said.

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A reporter reminded the president that the first anniversary of the fatal terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, is approaching on Sept. 11, and he asked Mr. Obama what authorities are doing to catch the killers.

“I also said that we’d get bin Laden and I didn’t get him in 11 months,” Mr. Obama replied. “We have informed, I think, the public that there’s a sealed indictment. It’s sealed for a reason. But we are intent on capturing those who carried out this attack, and we’re going to stay on it until we get them.”

Four Americans were killed in the Benghazi attack, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Sources said this week that the Justice Department has filed sealed criminal charges against a number of suspects in the attack.

One of those reportedly charged is Ahmed Abu Khattalah, founder of Libya’s Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia.

Mr. Obama gave the order in spring 2011 to go forward with a special forces operation in Pakistan that killed bin Laden.

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