While the Obama administration has iterated that al Qaeda has been "decimated," the group has in fact metastasized. The al Qaeda of the 9/11 era is not the same group that exists today, said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) before a packed house at AEI on Wednesday. The senator argued that the US has marginalized some of its own counterterrorism tools, namely its interrogation policies, harming its ability to gain valuable intelligence.
The senator's remarks were followed by a panel discussion among terrorism experts, who discussed the nature of the new al Qaeda threat. Katherine Zimmerman of AEI proposed that swaths of ungoverned areas in countries such as Libya, Egypt, and the Sinai have facilitated the movement of terrorist groups, and in many of these countries, conditions are ripe for insurgencies. She emphasized that to counter these conditions, the US must build up the state and provide basic services to its people.
Elizabeth O'Bagy of the Institute for the Study of War argued that al Qaeda is operationally stronger today because of instability in the Arab world and the Obama administration's policy of leading from behind. Frederick W. Kagan of AEI added that the US does not have a strategy for dealing with al Qaeda, although one would think that four years into a presidency would be enough time to form one. Kagan concluded: "we may be weary of war, but war is not weary of us.
Hard-pressed to survive in core strongholds, al Qaeda has staged a recovery through growing affiliates in Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Iraq, and Mali. The fluid composition of the terrorist group has created new trials for a US president who has largely relegated his foreign policy to drone warfare, and looming automatic spending cuts threaten to weaken US conventional capabilities.
How should policymakers confront a transformed al Qaeda threat? How can the United States combat al Qaeda fighters still trying to make inroads into Afghanistan? Is the drone campaign succeeding?
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will field these and other questions in his keynote address.
If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.