Mark Bowden, the author of Black Hawk Down and, most recently, of The Finish: The Killing Of Osama Bin Laden (for which he interviewed President Barack Obama), claimed on CNN last night that Obama and his political team are actively playing down al Qaeda for political gain:
On and around September 11, 2012, al Qaeda attacked multiple American assets around the world. The attack that has received the most attention is the deadly attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. But the U.S. consulate in Libya was not the only diplomatic facility assaulted by al Qaeda-affiliated groups in September. Terrorists with ties to al Qaeda’s senior leaders, including al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, were involved in at least three other U.S. embassy sieges in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, and possibly elsewhere.
A central tenet of President Obama’s foreign policy platform is that al Qaeda is “on the path to defeat.” The death of Osama bin Laden, drone strikes in northern Pakistan and elsewhere, the Arab Spring, and Obama’s more conciliatory approach to the Muslim world have all supposedly come together to sound the death knell for al Qaeda.
Pakistani officials have reportedly captured Naamen Meziche, an al Qaeda operative with an extensive dossier. Meziche plays a significant role in an article (“Al Qaeda’s Network in Iran”) that I co-authored with my colleague Benjamin Weinthal earlier this year. Reading through the articles describing Meziche’s capture that have been published so far, at least two aspects of his story are being either missed entirely or underreported in the American press.
At the Washington Free Beacon, Bill Gertz has a piece about Jose Rodriguez, the former chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. Rodriguez warns that the CIA is “out of the business” of interrogating senior al Qaeda terrorists and this will eventually lead to a hole in America’s counterterrorism efforts, if it hasn’t already. Time will tell if Rodriguez is right. The Obama administration is betting that he isn’t, and that by killing select al Qaeda leaders in drone strikes the terrorist threat is fully neutralized. There are significant problems with the Obama administration’s approach, even absent the prickly debate over interrogations.
Robert Gates, the former defense secretary, reportedly blasted the national security team in the Obama White House for blabbing about the raid to kill Osama bin Laden. "Shut the f--- up," Gates told Tom Donilon, who is now Obama's national security adviser, according to a book by New York Times reporter David Sanger.
Even before the celebrations a year ago had ended, terrorism experts were debating the strategic significance of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs. Some argued that bin Laden would prove irreplaceable to al Qaeda; others claimed he had been in hiding so long he was operationally and strategically irrelevant to the war on terror. Of course, it was too soon to know for sure.
We have been anxiously awaiting the release of the documents captured in Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan compound. According to informed U.S. intelligence officials, thousands of documents were captured in bin Laden’s lair, as was video and other types of media.