Over the past 5 years, President Obama has repeatedly stated in public that the al-Qaeda terrorist organization has been decimated, is on the path to defect or is on the run. This week, two of America’s top intelligence officials delivered sobering testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee within which they stated the exact opposite.
Under direct questioning by ranking member Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, National Intelligence Director James Clapper and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn were asked about the status of the organization.
“People keep talking about [how] al-Qaeda is on the run, on the path to defeat…. To me it’s just the opposite of that. Is al-Qaeda on the run and on the path to defeat?”
National Intelligence Director James Clapper responded, “No. It is morphing and franchising itself, not only here but in other areas of the world.”
Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn responded even more bluntly by simply stating, “No. They are not”.
Both Clapper and Flynn went on to testify that there has been a “proliferation” of al-Qaeda groups or “al-Qaeda wannabes” in Africa where there is a “perfect storm” of conditions for those groups to develop, such as large ungoverned areas, porous borders and the availability of weapons primarily from Libya.
Director Flynn also stated that the instability in Syria could allow al-Qaeda-affiliated groups to acquire weapons of mass destruction. “While Syria’s stockpiles are currently under the control of the regime, the movement of these weapons from their current locations for disposal, as well as other reasons, drastically increases the risk of these weapons or their components falling into the wrong hands.”
Director Clapper also noted that the al-Nusra Front in Syria does “harbor designs on attacks in Europe and the homeland.”
As previously reported by Threat Journal, Director Clapper testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that the al-Qaeda terrorist organization poses a greater challenge today than ten years ago not only due to the network’s franchises being much more globally dispersed, but also because of the increased knowledge of counter terrorism and surveillance methods gained from the Edward Snowden intelligence leaks.
We would be remiss if we did not remind readers of two important points:
The first is that most of the estimated 100,000 opposition forces fighting in Syria are not even Syrian (see this and this), but come from countries throughout the Middle East, Europe and even from America.
The second is that it is very well documented by mainstream and non-traditional media (and see this and this) that funding, weapons and training for Syrian opposition forces, including the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front, the very group Director Clapper states is posing a threat to the homeland, has actually come from the U.S. government, along with the UK, Saudis and Qatar. Talk about potential for blow-back!
Also keep in mind the following:
In September, Secretary of State John Kerry publicly stated, “I just don’t agree that a majority are al Qaeda and the bad guys. That’s not true. There are about 70,000 to 100,000 oppositionists … Maybe 15 percent to 25 percent might be in one group or another who are what we would deem to be bad guys.”
On September 16, President Obama waived a portion of the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 which made it illegal to offer material support to known terrorist organizations. In his detirminaton, President Obama wrote that the funding of defense articles and defense services to prevent the preparation, use, or proliferation of Syria’s chemical weapons, is essential to the national security interests of the United States.
On November 22, 2013, various rebel groups within the Syrian Opposition formed what is called the Islamic Front. Their numbers were estimated at around 75,000 fighters from seven rebel groups. And their goal? To install an Islamic State in Syria and institute Sharia law.
The net takeaway from all this is that, regardless of intentions or the ultimate goal of our involvement in the Syrian conflict (oil and gas pipelines perhaps?), the scope of terrorist threats to the homeland, as well as U.S. citizens and interests abroad, is expanding.