A week ago, National Journal’s Michael Hirsh quoted an unnamed State Department official who claimed that “The war on terror is over. Now that we have killed most of al Qaida, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism.” If it’s so over, then why were government officials referenced in Kimberly Dozier’s Associated Press report this evening about the state of Al Qaida a year after Osama Bin Laden’s death “on condition of anonymity because they say publicly identifying themselves could make them a target of the terrorist group”?
Dozier is a noteworthy exception to the usually dreadful reporting at the wire service, and has a personal reason for having her eyes open. While she was with CBS News in May 2006, she was critically injured by an IED in Iraq. After nine months, she returned to work. According to Wikipedia she joined the AP in the spring of 2010.
Dozier, as far as I can tell, is the first AP reporter to report an estimate of the financial value of the link between Al Qaida and the Somali pirates, which has been an established fact since the middle of last year and a likely established reality for quite some time prior to that. Here are key paragraphs from her fair and balanced report which shows that the terrorist group is strong enough to strike fear into anyone in government speaking with the press (bolds are mine):
Weaker al-Qaida still plots payback for US raid
A year after the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida is hobbled and hunted, too busy surviving for the moment to carry out another Sept. 11-style attack on U.S. soil.
But the terrorist network dreams still of payback, and U.S. counterterrorist officials warn that, in time, its offshoots may deliver.
“It’s wishful thinking to say al-Qaida is on the brink of defeat,” says Seth Jones, a Rand analyst and adviser to U.S. special operations forces. “They have increased global presence, the number of attacks by affiliates has risen, and in some places like Yemen, they’ve expanded control of territory.”
… U.S. officials say bin Laden’s old team is all but dismantled. But they say new branches are hitting Western targets and U.S. allies overseas, and still aspire to match their parent organization’s milestone of Sept. 11, 2001.
The deadliest is in Yemen.
“They are continuing to try to again, carry out an attack against U.S. persons inside of Yemen, as well as against the homeland,” White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
… U.S. officials say al-Qaida is less able to carry out a complex attack like Sept. 11 and they rule out al-Qaida’s ability to attack with weapons of mass destruction in the coming year. These officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they say publicly identifying themselves could make them a target of the terrorist group.
… By the numbers, al-Qaida’s greatest presence is still greatest in Iraq, where intelligence officials estimate up to a 1,000 fighters have refocused their campaign from striking now-absent U.S. troops to hitting the country’s Shiite-dominated government.
… the group is kept afloat by a stream of cash, partly from piracy and kidnapping of the Somali coast. White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan told an audience of CIA officers that total ransom payments paid to Somali pirates increased from approximately $80 million in 2010 to $140 million in 2011, according to remarks obtained by The Associated Press.
The kind of money Al Qaida’s funding source is hauling in is significant enough to warrant notice — certainly enough to tag the State Department apparatchik’s claim to National Journal, if shared widely, as dangerously naive.
I can see why Dozier wouldn’t have cited the National Journal piece, as its source was anonymous. But maybe someone in the press ought to ask Obama or his spokesmouth Jay Carney whether Brennan’s outlook or the unnamed State Department officials’ perspective is the one which represents the administration’s point of view. Don’t sit by the computer waiting for it to happen.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.