Head of U.S. Special Operations Command Admiral Bill McRaven said Thursday that the threat posed by al Qaeda is "much more broad today" and that it "was metastasizing," with affiliate groups surging in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and North Africa.
The withdrawal of American troops from Iraq has created a power vacuum for al Qaeda terrorists, with Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) calling Obama responsible for the recent fall of Fallujah back into the hands of their forces. Also, a weak response by the Obama administration to the Syrian civil war has also helped the situation spiral increasingly out of control, with the president reneging repeatedly on his empty "red line" threat against the Bashar al-Assad regime. Over the past year, Assad has tightened his regime's grip and al Qaeda's influence there has grown.
REP. J. RANDY FORBES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Admiral, thank you for your service and for being here today. Every once in a while we just need to kind of get touchstones of where we are. If you looked around the globe today and we used the term "terrorist" or I don't mind if you want to use a different term, "extremist" or whatever that we would want to call them today, in your best professional military judgment, take a snapshot, you pick the number of years, let's say the last five years, have we seen those groups getting markedly stronger, markedly weaker or staying substantially the same?
ADM. BILL MCRAVEN: Sir, I think we have to look at the totality. And I'll talk about al Qaeda as our greatest terrorist threat right now. So core al-Qaida has gotten markedly weaker. The threat that was emanating out of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with the support of other government agencies and the support of the Pakistanis, we have really decimated the core al-Qaida. So I would tell you that threat is significantly decreased. But of course, what we've seen is the franchise elements begin to pop up: al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaida in the Islamic Lands the Maghreb, we're seeing a resurgence, of course, of al-Qaida in Iraq that is now morphing into al-Qaida in Iraq and Syria. So these franchises are beginning to grow up.
However, having said that, I think what we see is a broader threat, but the high-end piece that we saw from core al-Qaida is not as prevalent as it used to be. So the threat is metastasizing, it is much more broad, but I would tell you that the threat to the homeland, with one or two exceptions, is less today than it was certainly, you know, five (years) or 10 years ago when core al-Qaida was stronger.