Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is no longer a threat to the United States, a senior Obama administration official said this afternoon.The official said the United States hasn’t seen a terrorist threat from Afghanistan, “for the past seven or eight years.”
“There is no indication at all that there is any effort within Afghanistan to use Afghanistan as a launching pad to carry out attacks outside of Afghan borders,” the official said.
In a background briefing with reporters before President Obama’s address tonight, senior administration officials presented an upbeat picture of America’s counterterrorism operations.
Calling the president’s strategy in Afghanistan a success, the administration restated its distaste for President George W. Bush’s “War on Terror.” One senior official said Obama “made it clear we are at war with not a tactic, frankly, of terrorism, but against a very specific group — Al Qaeda and its affiliates.”
Noting that most of the terrorist organisation’s leadership has moved to Pakistan and the rise of affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, the official said “the president’s guidance… is very clear: Stay on the offence against al Qaeda, wherever they manifest.”
The official said that, in particular, the U.S. has made “substantial progress” denying Al Qaeda a safe haven in Pakistan’s border province of Waziristan and tribal areas.
“What we’ve been able to do, particularly over the last year, but through the course of the last two and a half years of this administration, is to degrade Al Qaeda’s core capabilities significantly,” the official said. “We have taken a significant number of key senior leaders off of the battlefield — in addition to bin Laden, individuals like Saeed al-Masri and others who have been critical to al Qaeda’s operational and organizational capabilities over the last dozen years.”
The administration also pushed back against reports that Pakistan’s military and political classes are outraged over recent U.S. counterterrorism operations in that country.
“The truth is that a number of individuals within the Pakistani counterterrorism environment see that our capabilities are not just impressive, but also needed as a way to degrade the capabilities there of Al Qaeda,” the official said.
“I think what you’ve seen in this administration is an extraordinary effort to refocus our resources on the very real threats,” the official said, mentioning recent successful counterterrorism operations in Yemen and Somalia that killed Al Qaeda affiliates as examples of that shift.
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