The past year has, according to most reputable sources, brought a series of setbacks for al Qaeda. While al Qaeda continues to pose a threat, the killing of Osama bin Laden and other top al Qeada leaders has severely diminished the network’s reach and its ability to stage attacks against the U.S. and its allies.
Earlier this year, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said new U.S. intelligence estimates “lead us to assess that core al Qaida’s ability to perform a variety of functions — including preserving leadership and conducting external operations — has weakened significantly.” But the assessment of the Director of National Intelligence and U.S. intelligence agencies isn’t convincing to Mitt Romney foreign policy adviser Walid Phares. Phares, as reported on his Facebook Wall [screencap] and Twitter [screencap], told Canadian CTV last week:
[E]liminating Osama Bin Laden was part of the war withal [sic] Qaeda and an act of justice. But reality is that al Qaeda after Bin Laden’s killing is stronger everywhere it has a presence. From Yemen to Somalia, to the Sahel, as wel [sic] as in Pakistan and Afghanistan, al Qaeda has more militants, more battlefields and a new generation of commanders. Killing Bin Laden was one single operation in a war that is raging and growing
Phares provides no information to back this assertion which seems to fly in the face of U.S. intelligence assessments and the accomplishments made by the U.S. military and intelligence community in reducing al Qaeda’s operational capabilities.
Data from the National Counterterrorism Center’s Worldwide Incidents Tracking System shows that, in the past year alone, there has been: a 16 percent drop in successful attacks by the al Qaeda network; a 65 percent drop in successful attacks by the al Qaeda network outside Africa; and a 35 percent drop in casualties caused by al Qaeda. Twenty-two al Qaeda network senior-level operatives and leaders have been captured or killed since May 2011.
While the Romney camp has chosen to criticize the Obama administration’s accomplishments in killing bin Laden and weakening al Qaeda, Phares should provide some evidence to back up his claims that “al Qaeda after bin Laden’s killing is strong everywhere it has a presence.”