Wednesday, December 04, 2013

4-Dec-13: For the Obama White House, the future of the war against the terrorists is not what it used to be

Image Source: Reuters
If you read our post of two days ago ["2-Dec-13: That war on terror? A subjective thing"], you will be aware of the wide and widening gap - a chasm, really - between the prognostications made by the US president in May 2013 concerning the defeat of the terrorists and how we can make plans now to go home and rest up a bit, and the assessment of the heads of the Intelligence committees of the House and the Senate (one a Republican, one a Democrat). They're saying, in effect, things are bad, getting worse, and the threats are real.
"...Despite the death of Osama bin Laden and drone strikes aimed at decimating al Qaeda's leadership, President Barack Obama's administration has lost ground in the ongoing battle with global terrorism. "Are we safer now than we were a year ago, two years ago?" host Candy Crowley asked [Democrat Senator Dianne] Feinstein... "I don't think so," the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman replied. "I absolutely agree that we're not safer today," [Republican Representative Mike] Rogers added." [CNN's State of the Union, December 1, 2013]
At almost every opportunity, we tell our audiences that the war to repulse the terrorists (we call it "This Ongoing War") is not going well for the civilized side, and that it is surely going to get worse for us before it gets better. A serious piece of analysis in yesterday's New York Times ["Jihadist Groups Gain in Turmoil Across Middle East"] adds what we see as support to that thesis, though it directs much of its attention to the chaos in Syria. It starts with a reference to
the new signs of an energized but fragmented jihadist threat, stretching from Mali and Libya in the west to Yemen in the east
that it says
have complicated the narrative of a weakened Al Qaeda that President Obama offered in May in a landmark speech heralding the end of the war on terrorism. The leaders of the Senate and House intelligence committees, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, raised warnings in an interview on CNN on Sunday when they said that Americans were “not safer” from terrorist attacks than they were in 2011.
We think it's an excessively polite locution, this idea that the facts have "complicated" Obama's "narrative... heralding the end of the war on terrorism". What they ought to be saying is Obama's view had no basis in reality when he said it, and now the facts are just too egregious to be ignored any further, even from the White House.

The NYT piece speaks of growing evidence that Syria has become a magnet for jihadists and Islamist terrorists from all over, seeing it as a staging ground for a much wider conflict. They include
at least 1,200 European Muslims... and dozens of Americans... Foreign jihadis appear to be building to a critical mass and have overwhelmed the Western strategy of support for the moderate opposition
Seems we've come quite far from those rainbow-toned days of the Arab Spring that never was. The NYTimes article offers some illustrations -
  • In Yemen, as in Syria, this sectarian dynamic [and] the accompanying radicalization and militancy creates “the perfect environment for Al Qaeda” in a country where the terrorist group already has a strong foothold...
  • The Qaeda affiliate based there gained at least $20 million in ransom payments earlier this year from the governments of Qatar and Oman, which paid to free two groups of European hostages... enough to fuel their operations for years, the officials said.
  • American officials say that the Yemen-based Al Qaeda affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has regular contact with jihadist groups in Lebanon and in the Sinai Peninsula, where there have been near-daily attacks since the Egyptian military ousted the Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.
  • Sinai militant groups remain strong and have powerful new weapons — including surface-to-air missiles that could take down airliners — obtained from Libya after its civil war...
  • Disarray in Libya, where the weak transitional government is largely hostile to the nation’s fractious militias, is also a source of increasing concern. Terrorism analysts say southern Libya has become a safe haven for a range of jihadists.
  • "The worm has turned in the Middle East in the minds of American foreign policy makers,” said William McCants, an expert on jihadist movements and a former senior adviser at the State Department. “It seems we are back to counterterrorism as a guiding focus for American policy.”
Oddly, the NYTimes reaches no conclusions about what these spiraling events say about Obama's May 2013 statement and the perceptions behind it. Is there nothing for us to learn? No implications for what the Obama administration is doing now, in December 2013?

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