Opinion: Editorials

Examiner Editorial: Sorry, Mr. President, but al Qaeda is not on the 'path to defeat'

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Editorial,Homeland Security,Washington Free Beacon

Despite years of U.S. counter-terrorism campaigns, Islamic Jihadists are stronger than ever.

While campaigning for re-election last year, President Obama said "al Qaeda is on the run," and "al Qaeda has been decimated." He even proclaimed that the group is "on the path to defeat." But a much less rosy scenario emerges from a clear-eyed assessment by an independent group that finds Osama bin Laden's terrorist outfit is actually growing and expanding its reach.

The report was compiled and published by the independent intelligence analysis firm Lignet, which was formed by former analysts from the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Lignet argues that Obama's reliance on sanctions and surveillance has encouraged the group's transformation into a "coalition of localized, autonomous, and self-sufficient terrorist 'franchise' cells." Obama claims the "core" of al Qaeda has been decimated, but if that were true, it would not now be running new training camps on the Arabian Peninsula, in Africa, in several of the Muslim-dominated states that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, and in Southeast Asia.

The new terrorist cells are causing more damage than al Qaeda did under bin Laden. "The number of terrorist attacks quadrupled in five years from 208 in 2003 to 864 in 2008," according to the Lignet analysis. Lignet cited the limited effects of economic sanctions and surveillance. Freezing al Qaeda's assets, for example, produced diminishing returns, from the $112 million seized from the group in the months immediately following 9/11 to just $24 million two years after the attack.

Sanctions hurt al Qaeda initially but the terrorist group has found other methods for raising funds and transferring money. Criminal activities have become al Qaeda's chief source of operating capital, and it uses hawaladars (brokers) and couriers to shift money between cells. These transfers are all but untraceable, defeating U.S. counterterrorism efforts to "follow the money." The sanctions have also failed to stop state sponsors of terrorism from funding attacks. Iran, which is the worst offender, has dispatch thousands of Hezbollah operatives into Syria.

Beyond ineffective sanctions, Obama's counterterrorism effort is failing because al Qaeda is not the only terrorist organization in the game. As the Washington Free Beacon's Bill Gertz wrote Wednesday, "the U.S. government's counterterrorism paradigm is misguided because the forefront of global Islamic jihad is not al Qaeda, but the Muslim Brotherhood." In addition to the Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Boko Haram and al Shabaab are committing attacks throughout the Middle East region, Gertz said.

Obama's wishful thinking won't stop that proliferation, but continuing to pretend al Qaeda is no longer a threat endangers every American. In other words, Obama's anti-terrorism policy has been no more successful than his economic stimulus was at reviving the U.S. economy.

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