The American Interest

A Failure of Intelligence

“Al Qaeda is on the run, Osama bin Laden is dead,” President Obama announced at a rally in Des Moines on the eve of last year’s presidential election.

Less than a year later it is evident that, contrary to Obama’s assurances, Al Qaeda is alive and well, along with other Islamic terrorist networks.  The jihadists scored a major propaganda coup with the closing of two-dozen U.S. embassies and consulates in 21 mainly Muslim countries on August 4, and with the simultaneous worldwide travel alert issued to American citizens by the State Department.  The United States appeared feeble as diplomats hastily packed their bags before being airlifted out on military aircraft, while the shutdown was extended to a week in most locations.

The closings coincided with greatly intensified U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, which targeted members of Nasir al-Wuhayshi’s Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the network’s most active and dangerous affiliate.  There were 9 such attacks between July 27 and August 10, resulting in dozens of deaths—women and children included, as usual—compared with 77 drone strikes in the country since the campaign began in 2010.  Hundreds of Yemenis have been killed since then, but experts who follow the situation in the country warn that Obama’s “mowing the lawn” approach is also spreading new seeds: The number of full-fledged...

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