In May, President Barack Obama said al-Qaida was so thoroughly vanquished that the time had come for the United States to rethink its model for counterterrorism. But a new Washington Times report shows a stark contrast between what Obama has been telling Americans about al-Qaida and what his intelligence team has been telling him.
The deceit extends at least as far back as the late-2012 election season. While Obama was telling voters that al-Qaida was decimated and on the run, his staff was telling him that al-Qaida offshoots in the field had been quickly changing tactics to accommodate American counterterrorism efforts. In fact, offshoots of the organization have been extending al-Qaida’s reach into Africa even as “core” al-Qaida — the central leadership group formerly headed by Osama bin Laden — retrenched under bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
House Intelligence Committee member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) told The Times he believes, just as U.S. intelligence officials believe, that the President’s focus only on al-Qaida’s “core” neglects the bigger picture.
Like the intelligence community last year, Mr. Ruppersberger draws a distinction between al Qaeda central in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the offshoots gaining strength in Africa.
“It is important to define what we mean when we are talking about al Qaeda,” Mr. Ruppersberger told The Times. “Core al Qaeda is the original organization, headed then by Osama bin Laden and now by [Ayman] al-Zawahri, that orchestrated 9/11 and has a safe haven in the FATA in Pakistan.
“That group has been weakened, but is adaptive and resilient,” he said. “Thus, its strength level fluctuates.”
More sources spoke on condition of anonymity, telling the newspaper Obama began correcting his characterization of al-Qaida as a weakened terror group only after he’d won re-election.
“Intelligence that the president wove into a May 23 speech at the National Defense University was, in fact, well-known among analysts at America’s major spy agencies nearly a year earlier,” according to the anonymous sources.
In particular, the murderous Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, had indicated to the U.S. intelligence community that the reach of al-Qaida in the post-bin Laden era had already begun to manifest in ways that demonstrated a heavier reliance on satellite operations with guerrilla-like, quasi-autonomous power structures than on the older, top-heavy hierarchy. Those satellites could take their cues from the top of the al-Qaida food chain — but not necessarily their marching orders.
That, according to The Times, is exactly how the Benghazi attack played out, with al-Zawahiri releasing a video through the Internet calling for attacks on Americans in Libya in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike against a high-level al-Qaida member in Pakistan.
“Despite being briefed on it privately, Mr. Obama and his surrogates resisted portraying the attack as having been carried out, or even inspired by, al Qaeda,” the story observes. “To the contrary, Mr. Obama — then in the throes of daily campaigning for re-election — appeared only to ramp up his narrative that the al Qaeda threat was diminished.
“On the day after the Benghazi attack, which occurred on the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11, Mr. Obama told an audience in Las Vegas that ‘al Qaeda is on the path to defeat and bin Laden is dead’ — a talking point the president hammered again the next day in Golden, Colo., and in back-to-back speeches Sept. 17 in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio.”
If the Obama Administration’s bizarre real-time narrative of Benghazi tragedy, coupled with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s patronizing spin on events after the fact, has always left you wondering what the President was trying to conceal, the answer is starting to come into focus.
Obama was trying to distort the truth about al-Qaida — and its definitive role in murdering members of the U.S. diplomatic mission (including our ambassador to Libya) — until the final vote had been counted in the 2012 Presidential race.