In an interview published Tuesday by The Daily Beast, Senator John McCain criticized the Obama administration on its approach to the al-Qaeda threat:
There was a gross underestimation by this administration of al-Qaeda’s overall ability to replenish itself.
This comes after the Daily Beast exclusive announced that the call the U.S. government intercepted, which triggered the closure of roughly 20 embassies and consulates around the world, involved more than 20 al-Qaeda operatives, referred to as the “Legion of Doom” by an unnamed U.S. intelligence official. Aside from Ayman al-Zawahiri (the current leader of al-Qaeda) and Nasser al-Wuhayshi (the leader of the Yemen-based wing of the terrorist network), there were also members located in Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and southeast Asia:
Al Qaeda members included representatives or leaders from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and more obscure al Qaeda affiliates such as the Uzbekistan branch. Also on the call were representatives of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates such as al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula, according to a U.S. intelligence official.
The article also expanded on details regarding the closures in Israel, confirming an al-Qaeda presence right on their doorstep. The terrorist network presence in that volatile area of the world concerned the US government enough to have it shut down for a time.
“These guys already proved they could hit Eilat. It’s not out of the range of possibilities that they could hit us in Tel Aviv,” said the U.S. intelligence official.
These developments cast doubt on the Obama administration’s statements on how the terrorist network “is on the run” and references to their “decimated” ranks.
On Monday, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said:
We’ve been clear that we have made a great deal of success against al Qaeda core in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that we have taken a number of steps to really decimate that group’s leadership, including, of course, most importantly, Osama bin Laden. But at the same time, we’ve all made clear, from the president on down, that we remain very concerned about the affiliates, al-Qaeda affiliates throughout the world. And in that—first on that list is always AQAP.
In fact, since the embassy and consulate closures on Sunday, a drone strike in Yemen killed four al-Qaeda militants on Tuesday, and another drone strike today killed “at least six militants” and allegedly thwarted an attack on “Yemeni oil infrastructure and cities.”
McCain isn’t convinced that the Obama administration is as effective as it claims to be:
The core seems to be able to able to reconstitute itself. The core also seems to be able to coordinate and manage the affiliates.