U.S. ‘not safer’ from al-Qaeda


U.S. ‘not safer’ from al-Qaeda

Dec 9th, 2013 2 min read
Peter Brookes

Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs

Peter helps develop and communicate The Heritage Foundation's stance on foreign and defense policy through his research and writing.
Years ago there was a popular TV commercial for an investment firm that proclaimed: When we talk, people listen. For the national security crowd, when the House and/or Senate intelligence chairs talk, people listen.

And so should you.

In a largely unheralded CNN interview last week congressional intelligence chiefs U.S. Rep Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Sen Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) dropped a bombshell about the terrorism threat.

The anchor asked the two, “Are we safer now than we were a year ago, two years ago?”

Shockingly, Feinstein said, “I don’t think so ... terror is up worldwide ... there are new bombs ... that go through magnetometers [metal detectors] ... there are more groups than ever ... there’s huge malevolence out there.”

Unfortunately, Rogers agreed that “we’re not safer,” adding “[al-Qaeda] is metastasizing to something different ... groups that operated independently of al-Qaeda have now joined al-Qaeda all around the world.”

He added that along with other Western targets, the terrorists have us smack in the middle of the cross-hairs.

Rogers seemed particularly unnerved by Syria, which has become terror central for the “have jihad will travel” crowd. He asserted that there are more al-Qaeda forces in Syria than have ever been assembled in any one place before.

His claim is backed up by news accounts which report that as many as 2,000 Europeans have gone to Syria to join al-Qaeda and fight against the Bashar Assad regime — joining thousands more from elsewhere.

Rogers is worried that some of those battle-hardened, intensely radicalized terrorists, including some possible Americans, will return home to put their experience to work.

Feinstein seems to be unsettled by (presumably) al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) legendary bomb-maker, Ibrahim al Asiri. The underwear bomb is his brainchild — and he now has one that can slip by a metal detector and onto a plane.

(By the way, an AQAP offshoot killed more than 50 last week in an attack in Yemen.)

In their short interview, the intel chairs weren’t able to get to a lot of other stuff. For instance, next door to Syria, more than 8,000 have been killed in Iraq this year, many at the hands of a resurgent al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda, which draws its adherents from Sunni Muslims, is also active in Lebanon, where it has been hitting the Shia terror group Hezbollah and its ally Iran for their regime-supporting activities in Syria.

And outside the Middle East, the congressional pair didn’t get into al-Shabab, which continues its shedding of blood in its native Somalia. Don’t forget its horrific attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in September that killed some 70 people in a three-day siege.

Elsewhere in Africa, al-Qaeda allies Boko Haram and Ansaru (new U.S.-designated terror groups) terrorize Nigeria. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb haunts Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania.

That’s a pretty long way — in the opposite direction — from where President Obama told us during the 2012 campaign that “al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat.” While the president was apparently wrong, Feinstein and Rogers seem to be spot on.

We all better listen.

- Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Originally appeared in the Boston Herald.