The threat posed by al Qaeda terrorism around the world continues to increase despite President Barack Obama’s recent claim that the central group behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks is on the path to defeat, according to U.S. and foreign counterterrorism officials and private experts.
While terrorist threats still exist, “the core of al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is on the path to defeat,” the president said.
However, a U.S. counterterrorism official said the threat posed by al Qaeda is growing. “From Africa to Pakistan, it is spreading systematically,” the official said.
The focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan resulted in a lack of targeted counterterrorism efforts in other locations, the official said. The official added that counterterrorism efforts have been weakened by the administration’s policy of dissociating Islam from al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorism. The policy was a key effort of John Brennan, White House counterterrorism chief during the first Obama administration. As CIA director, Brennan has expanded the policy of limiting links between Islam and terrorism at the agency.
The result is that Islamist terror groups are flourishing, posing direct threats to the United States and to U.S. interests outside the country, the official said.
That assessment is bolstered by a new report by the private Lignet intelligence group. The report made public Tuesday says the U.S. government’s overreliance on sanctions and surveillance has limited the war on terror.
The result is “a decentralized al Qaeda structure—and a much greater threat,” the report said.
“Al Qaeda training camps are now being established on the Arabian Peninsula, in Africa, countries of the former Soviet Union, and Southeast Asia.”
York Zirke, head of Germany’s federal criminal police agency, told a conference in Russia recently that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are shifting operations from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Syria, northern Africa, Yemen, and other countries.
“Speaking about the situation in the world, it has to be reiterated that al Qaeda and organizations associated with it are not halting their activities, but the centers of its activities have moved from the area close to the Pakistani and Afghani borders to other regions such as Syria, Northern Africa, Mali, and Yemen,” Zirke said during a conference in Kazan, Russia, on June 6, according to Interfax.
A key affiliate, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM, and the Somalia-based al Shabaab group are the two main groups operating and expanding in Africa. The Nigerian al Qaeda group Boko Haram also emerged as a new affiliate and is posing a significant threat to the region.
About 4,000 French troops were dispatched to Mali in January to battle al Qaeda terrorists.
AQIM is expanding despite the French military intervention. A BBC report from May 29 stated that the expansion is not new. “Militants and armed radical groups have expanded and entrenched their positions throughout the Sahel and Sahara over the last decade under the umbrella of [AQIM].”
Al Qaeda affiliates in Libya are moving into the power vacuum left by the ouster of the regime of Muammar Gadhafi. The main al Qaeda affiliate there is Ansar al Sharia, blamed for the Sept. 11, 2012, attack against the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.
A U.S. intelligence official has said reports from Egypt identified al Qaeda groups operating Al-Azhar University in Cairo. The university is said to be a covert base for al Qaeda organizational and training activities that is developing a jihadist network made up of many different nationalities.
Joseph Myers, a retired Army officer and specialist on the ideology of Islamist terror, said U.S. efforts to target and kill al Qaeda leaders have been successful. But al Qaeda affiliates are spreading “from the Horn of Africa, across North Africa and post-Gaddafi Libya into central Africa to Dagestan and like-minded bombers in Boston,” he noted.
“Al Qaeda is an idea, not simply an organization and ideas are not easily ‘killed,’” Myers said in an email.
The U.S. government’s counterterrorism paradigm is misguided because the forefront of global Islamic jihad is not al Qaeda, but the Muslim Brotherhood “we are now partnering with as a matter of policy,” he said.
Full article: Al Qaeda Terrorist Threat Is Growing (Washington Free Beacon)