Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Al-Qaida is growing, expanding its reach

The Gazette editorial Published: June 21, 2013

Despite years of U.S. counterterrorism campaigns, Islamic jihadists are stronger than ever.

While campaigning for re-election last year, President Obama said "al-Qaida is on the run," and "al-Qaida 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-Qaida 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-Qaida 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-Qaida'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-Qaida initially but the terrorist group has found other methods for raising funds and transferring money. Criminal activities have become al-Qaida'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-Qaida 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-Qaida, 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-Qaida 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. - The Washington Examiner

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