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Reporter Presses Josh Earnest on White House's Al Qaeda Claim: ‘I Don’t Understand How You Can Say This Group Was Decimated’

"...how can you call that decimated?"

White House press secretary Josh Earnest was repeatedly pressed Friday by ABC News reporter Jon Karl over the Obama administration's claim that "core Al Qaeda has been decimated."

“In light of this major military operation against a group that was planning an imminent attack on the United States, is it time to revise and extend what the White House has said over and over again by claiming that core Al Qaeda has been decimated?” Karl asked. “Is it clear now that was simply an incorrect statement.”

“No, it continues to be clear to this day that core Al Qaeda has been decimated,” Earnest answered.

That answer didn't satisfy Karl.

"But we just had to bomb a group that represents remnants of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan pose such a threat that we had to do a major military operation to hit them in Syria," he said.

"I think one thing that should be clear: these individuals and this organization in Afghanistan and Pakistan were so decimated that they had to flee to another country to try to find another safe haven to try to get into a position to carry out attacks in the West," Earnest responded.

"But they were still able to pose a threat and plan an imminent attack that you were so concerned about that you've launched a military campaign against them, how can you call that decimated?" Karl pressed. "The fact that they moved to Syria where they have access to more resources and actually were closer, I don't understand how you can say this group was decimated."

"Because what's clear, because of the bravery of our American military personnel. the courage of our intelligence officials and the effective work of our diplomats, that network that previously was entrenched in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was so entrenched there that they could launch a worldwide conspiracy that allowed them to conduct a large scale attack on the American homeland, no longer exists. That network is gone," Earnest said, ending the back and forth.

Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter

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