With its commitment to fight against terrorism and violent extremism globally, the United States of America today reported that the al-Qa’ida core is on the path to defeat.
In his remarks today in Washington DC on Global Counterterrorism: A Progress Report, Coordinator Daniel Benjamin
Coordinator says the two most dangerous affiliates, the Al-shabaab and Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), while still posing serious threats, have suffered their worst setbacks in years.
al-Qa’ida Core Group
According to Mr. Benjamin, in South Asia, AQ’s core has been seriously degraded.
“Without a doubt, Usama bin Ladin’s departure from the scene was the most important milestone in the fight against al-Qaida.” – Mr. Benjamin
He says the removal of AQ’s founder and sole commander for 22 years was a testament to the work of countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals across the government.
The US and its partners have removed more than 20 of AQ’s top 30 leaders, Mr. Benjamin noted.
“Now, the core finds it difficult to raise money, train recruits, and plan attacks outside of the region.” – Mr. Benjamin
In Yemen, Mr. Benjamin cites that the fight against al Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula is a work in progress, but the trend lines are positive.
He reports that the resolve of President Hadi and the Yemeni people has made a major difference: after holding a considerable swath of territory, AQAP has been rolled back from the gains of last year.
New Start For Somalia
In Somalia, Mr. Benjamin reports that after more than two decades of strife, this autumn marked the end of Somalia’s political transition with a new provisional constitution, parliament, and president.
“These are the hopeful signs of a new era in Somalia.” – Mr. Benjamin
He says Somalia could reach this point because Somali National Forces and the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), with strong financial support and training from the U.S. and Western partners, expelled al-Shabaab from major cities in southern Somalia.
In addition, Mr. Benjamin says while the group will undoubtedly try to carry out attacks against the new government and against neighboring countries, al-Shabaab is fragmented by dissension and much weakened.
“That’s good news, we can all agree: In short, the al-Qa’ida core is on the path to defeat.” – Mr. Benjamin
In his remarks, Mr. Benjamin also highlighted that as President Obama served his first terms, the al-Qa’ida (AQ) core was a formidable and dangerous organization, deeply dug in to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and capable of committing a catastrophic attack.
In Yemen, the country had become a worrisome hotbed of terrorist activity. Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) established itself as the first AQ affiliate with the determination and capability of striking the United States.
In Somalia, al-Shabaab controlled all but a few blocks of Mogadishu and much of South and Central Somalia, Mr. Benjamin added.
“Against this backdrop, we began our tenure with some thoughts about what we needed to do to be more effective.” – Mr. Benjamin
The US has recognized that kinetic action was not enough to reduce the threat as much as it wanted to combat extremism in those countries.
With that in mind, the US put a high priority on two key areas: capacity building, so countries around the world could do a better job dealing with the threats within their borders and regions; and, recognizing that they had to address what Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan labeled the “upstream factors” of radicalization.
“Today, four years later, things look different, both on the ground.” – Mr. Benjamin
Mali and Libya Terrorists
According to Mr. Benjamin, in Mali, the terrorists of al Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are attempting to consolidate their safe haven.
In Libya, the aftermath of the revolution has provided more opportunities for extremist groups to operate, he added.
He explains that weakened domestic security institutions and especially civil strife create exactly the kind of environment that terrorists are drawn to.
He adds that Libya has provided one such case where extremists can cause real problems for states undergoing difficult transitions to democracy.
“We see another example in Syria. There, al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) seeks to establish a long-term presence under the pseudonym of al-Nusrah Front.” – Mr. Benjamin
Mr. Benjamin also pointed out that while non-state actors such as al-Qaida remain at the top of US priority list, the world has witnessed a resurgence of state sponsorship of terrorism, especially in the dangerous and destabilizing activities of the Iranian regime, through the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Qods Force (IRGC-QF), and Tehran’s ally Hizballah.
“So, as we’ve seen, the world of counterterrorism is changing fast.” – Mr. Benjamin
He says some of the most dangerous threats have receded noticeably, but new ones are emerging.
To address this new threats, Mr. Benjamin says diplomatic engagement right now is essential.
Criminal Justice Agency Action
He notes that the better US partners are at using their criminal justice agencies to prosecute, adjudicate and incarcerate terrorists, the less new government will resort to extra-legal methods to crack down on a domestic threat.
The US is working closely with its interagency partners particularly the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Defense to help foreign partners develop their law enforcement and justice sector institutions and to secure their borders.
US Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program is the U.S. government’s premier counterterrorism capacity-building program for criminal justice agencies of partner nations.
According to Mr. Benjamin, from bomb detection and crime scene investigation to border, aviation, and cyber security, ATA builds capacity in a wide spectrum of counterterrorism skills, offering courses, seminars, and consultations.
In just the last fiscal year, ATA that trained more than 9,800 participants from more than 50 partner nations, he added.
“This is indeed a whole of government effort.” – Mr. Benjamin
He cites it is working with the Department of Justice, bureau at the State Department deploys Resident Legal Advisors to U.S. Embassies to develop host country government and law enforcement sector capacity, specifically to deal with terrorism.
The RLAs will also provide the more basic mentoring and skills development to bring prosecutors and law enforcement agencies to a point where they can pursue more complex types of cases, including those involving terrorist crimes.
“We have these advisers in a growing number of countries.” – Mr. Benjamin
Sahel and Maghreb
In its capacity building efforts, in the Sahel and Maghreb, the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) has helped build the capacity of 10 countries across the region with training and support so they can tighten border security, disrupt terrorist networks, and prevent attacks.
He says the program brings together civilian, criminal justice, and military experts to pursue a comprehensive approach to counterterrorism.
“Capacity building, as we all know, has come in for criticism at times, but when a country has political resolve, it can make extraordinary strides with assistance from others.” – Mr. Benjamin
In adddition, in 2011, the US launched a major initiative and established the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), thereby advancing the President’s goal of building an international architecture for dealing with 21st century threats.
According to Mr. Benjamin, the GCTF’s 29 member-states and the European Union brings together traditional Western donors, Muslim-majority nations, and major powers from around the globe.
It offers counterterrorism policy makers and experts something unique: a dedicated platform to identify urgent needs and strengthen programming around the world, Mr. Benjamin noted.
Mr. Benjamin concluded that there are clear indications that the al-Qa’ida message continues to wane in popularity.
“Make no mistake: The United States will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to protect itself from terrorism.” – Mr. Benjamin
Country Reports on Terrorism
In August this year, with the recent release of “Country Reports on Terrorism 2011” by the US State Department, Counterterrorism Coordinator Daniel Benjamin said al-Qaida affiliates are increasing their overall operational ability in Arabian Peninsula despite suffering losses in 2011.
Besides the death of Usama bin Ladin and a number of other key al-Qaida operatives, millions of citizens throughout the Middle East advance peaceful public demands for change without any reference to al-Qaida’s incendiary world view.
Terrorists could still cause to significant disruptions for states undergoing very challenging democratic transitions, Mr. Benjamin added.
The report’s narrative notes, among other things, the continued weakening of the al-Qaida core in Pakistan, but increasing their overall operational ability which is particularly true of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
The US is also increasingly concerned about Iran’s support for terrorism and Hezbollah’s activities as they’ve both stepped up their level of terrorist plotting over the past year and and are engaging in their most active and aggressive campaigns since the 1990s.
According to the National Counterterrorism Center, the total number of worldwide attacks in 2011 was more than 10,000 in 70 countries, resulting in more than 12,500 deaths.
More than 75 percent of the world’s attacks and deaths occurred in these regions.
Africa experienced 978 attacks in 2011, an 11.5 percent increase over the previous year, Mr. Benjamin reported.
Understanding the group’s strengths and weaknesses and the trajectory of its evolution are continuing critical challenges for us and will remain so in the years ahead, he noted.
In June this year, Yemeni city of Shuqra fell to government forces when Yemeni troops took control of the city.
Shuqra is the last major stronghold of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Abyan province to fall to government forces.
Reports say the Yemeni military launched an all-out offensive in July this year that resulted in the recapture of the towns of Jaar and Zinjibar.
The United States of America commend Yemeni military success against Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula.
The United States commended the success of the Yemeni government, military, and people in re-taking important areas of southern Yemen, including the cities of Ja’ar and Zinjibar, from al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
After sustained Yemeni operations, AQAP no longer controls those cities.
The al-Qa’ida core group’s presence in Abyan has had a devastating impact on the citizens there and prevented the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance desperately needed by the Yemeni people.