After locking down U.S. embassies and beefing up domestic security based on new intelligence about terror threats over the weekend, the White House spent a Monday afternoon press briefing defending President Barack Obama's repeated reelection campaign claims that al-Qaeda had been “decimated” or was on the run.
Several reporters pressed White House spokesman Jay Carney Monday about Obama's assertion on the stump that the global terror network was on the run. Carney made a distinction between al-Qaeda “core” and al-Qaeda affiliates, namely al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
“There is no question that al-Qaeda the core leadership, the leadership that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 has been decimated, al-Qaeda core in the Af-Pak region has been greatly diminished and is on the run,” Carney said. “We have brought continual pressure to bear on both al-Qaeda core and al-Qaeda affiliates. And we have, for a number of years now, made clear that our objective in terms of threat in terms of al-Qaeda has shifted to some of these affiliates.”
Obama made several reiterations of the claim in 2012 stump speeches. For instance, on Nov. 1 in Green Bay, Wisc., he said, “al-Qaeda has been decimated, Osama bin Laden is dead.”
On Sept. 12, 2012, one day after the attack on the Benghazi compound, Obama said, “A day after 9/11, we are reminded that a new tower rises above the New York skyline, but al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat and bin Laden is dead.”
To be clear, Obama did say on Sept. 20, 2012 when speaking at the University of Miami, “We’ve decimated al-Qaeda’s top leadership in the border regions around Pakistan, but in Yemen, in Libya, in other of these places – increasingly in places like Syria – what you see is these elements that don’t have the same capacity that a bin Laden or core al-Qaeda had, but can still cause a lot of damage, and we’ve got to make sure that we remain vigilant and are focused on preventing them from doing us any harm.”
During the Monday briefing, Carney told reporters, “I think it's indisputable that the elimination of Osama bin Laden was a major accomplishment in the effort against al-Qaeda. We have been clear and the president has been clear that the threat from al-Qaida very much remains.”
Front Page photo credit: AP/Susan Walsh