Intelligence Leaders: Al-Qaida Is Not on Path to Defeat

“It is morphing and franchising itself, not only here but in other areas of the world,” James Clapper said.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 29: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies during a hearing before Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee January 29, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on 'Current and Projected National Security Threats Against the United States.' (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
National Journal
Sara Sorcher
Feb. 11, 2014, 7:07 a.m.

Al-Qaida is not on the run, and after be­ing hunted for two dec­ades it is not on the path to de­feat. That’s the sober­ing mes­sage from two top in­tel­li­gence lead­ers, Na­tion­al In­tel­li­gence Dir­ect­or James Clap­per and De­fense In­tel­li­gence Agency Dir­ect­or Mi­chael Flynn dur­ing a Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices com­mit­tee hear­ing Tues­day.

Sen. James In­hofe, R-Okla., hearkened back to past com­ments from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion about the im­pend­ing de­feat, or at least de­cline, of the ter­ror­ist net­work. “People keep talk­ing about [how] al-Qaida is on the run, on the path to de­feat…. To me it’s just the op­pos­ite of that,” the com­mit­tee’s rank­ing mem­ber said. “Is al-Qaida on the run, and on the path to de­feat?”

“No,” Clap­per replied.”It is morph­ing and fran­chising it­self, not only here but in oth­er areas of the world.”

“They are not,” Flynn con­firmed.

Pres­id­ent Obama has in­deed said that core al-Qaida lead­er­ship is on the run — and touted how the U.S., un­der his lead­er­ship, con­duc­ted an op­er­a­tion that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

Obama has also ac­know­ledged the threat grows more com­plic­ated as al-Qaida fran­chises take hold in Ye­men, Somalia, Ir­aq, and oth­er hot spots. “While we have put al-Qaida’s core lead­er­ship on a path to de­feat, the threat has evolved, as al-Qaida af­fil­i­ates and oth­er ex­trem­ists take root in dif­fer­ent parts of the world,” Obama said in his State of the Uni­on ad­dress.

In a re­cent hear­ing on glob­al threats, Clap­per told the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that Amer­ica’s abil­ity to un­der­stand the ter­ror­ist threat has im­proved over the last dec­ade, but that the net­work’s dis­per­sion makes ex­trem­ists harder to de­tect. “I can’t say that the threat is any less,” Clap­per told the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee in late Janu­ary.
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