A shocking post by Eli Lake in the Daily Beast reports that in 2012, the Obama administration produced a draft National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that al Qaeda was no longer a direct threat to America. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Gen. Michael Flynn fought hard against the report then, and the intelligence community continues to fight against an administration ignoring the resurgence of al Qaeda. One intelligence official warned:
Take this ‘al Qaeda is on the run’ message. It’s something you’ve seen in the last couple of years. If they are on the run, they are on the run to the United States.
The internal 2012 stuggle was happening while President Obama was campaigning for reelection and telling people that al Qaeda was on the run. Even more worrisome is that the argument is still being fought despite al Qaeda’s resurgence — a renewed muscle flexing that is being withheld from the American people, Congress, and even other members of the administration. Lake explains that “in the last year alone, al Qaeda has established safe havens in Libya, Syria, and Iraq:
In interviews with many of them [intelligence personnel], a common theme is sounded: The threat from al Qaeda is rising, but the White House is looking to ratchet down the war against these Islamic extremists. As a result, intelligence gathered on these threats remain shrouded from the public and, in many cases, from senior government officials. And now Congress and the White House are beginning to consider modifying — and possibly revoking — the very authority to find, fix and finish those terrorists who pose the threat today.
One senior U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast the frustration was that there is pressure from the White House to downplay the threat from some al Qaeda affiliates. “It comes from the top, it’s the message that al Qaeda is all these small franchise groups and they are not coordinated and threatening,” this official said. “It’s the whole idea of getting us out to place resources against something that they don’t think is a problem. It’s not their war, it’s not our conflict.”
The White House may even be relying on old data to prove their point:
At the same time, U.S. intelligence officers say, there is deep division within their ranks — and with the White House — about the strength of al Qaeda in the place where that war began: Afghanistan. The current estimate of the terror group’s presence there says that al Qaeda has a little more than 100 fighters in the country’s province of Kunar. That, these intelligence officers contend, is wildly out of date. “Al Qaeda has a presence all over Afghanistan today,” a senior U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast. “This is the conversation that no one wants to have. What are they going to do after 2014 when most of our troops will be gone?”
“It comes from the top, it’s the message that al Qaeda is all these small franchise groups and they are not coordinated and threatening. It’s not their war, it’s not our conflict.”
That in a nutshell has been the problem with President Obama’s execution of the War on Terror all along. A naive strategy of “if you will it — it will happen” is not the way the Middle East works. They only see strength or weakness, and right now when they look at the United States under Barack Obama they see weakness.
Cross-posted at The Lid