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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.
Registration and Lunch
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), US Senate
Frederick W. Kagan, AEI
Elizabeth O'Bagy, Institute for the Study of War's Syria Team
Katherine Zimmerman, AEI
Thomas Donnelly, AEI
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Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) is the senior US senator from Georgia. He previously served as a US representative (1995–2003). Chambliss's leadership and experience on homeland security and intelligence matters during his tenure in the House of Representatives earned him the position of vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, where he steadfastly advocates for dramatically improved information sharing and human-intelligence-gathering capabilities. Chambliss's previous role as chairman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security made him one of the leading congressional experts on those issues. As a current member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chambliss continues Georgia's longstanding tradition of leadership and advocacy for the state's military installations. Throughout the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure round, Chambliss remained steadfast in defense of Georgia's bases targeted for closure. He has also been a tireless advocate for improving the quality of life for troops and their families. Chambliss was first elected to Congress to represent Georgia's 8th District in 1994. Throughout his legislative career, he has been recognized numerous times by the public and private sectors for his work on agriculture, defense, budget, and national security issues.
Thomas Donnelly is a defense and security policy analyst and codirector of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at AEI. He is the coauthor, with Frederick W. Kagan, of “Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields” (2010). Among his recent books are “Ground Truth: The Future of U.S. Land Power” (2008), also coauthored with Frederick W. Kagan; “Of Men and Materiel: The Crisis in Military Resources” (2007), coedited with Gary J. Schmitt; “The Military We Need” (2005); and “Operation Iraqi Freedom: A Strategic Assessment” (2004). From 1995 to 1999, he was policy group director and a professional staff member for the US House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services. Donnelly also served as a member of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. He is a former editor of Armed Forces Journal, Army Times, and Defense News.
Frederick W. Kagan is the Christopher DeMuth Chair and director of the Critical Threats Project at AEI. In 2009, he served in Kabul, Afghanistan, as part of General Stanley McChrystal's strategic assessment team, and he returned to Afghanistan in 2010, 2011, and 2012 to conduct research for Generals David Petraeus and John Allen. In July 2011, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen awarded him the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest honor the chairman can present to civilians who do not work for the US Department of Defense. He is coauthor of the report “Defining Success in Afghanistan” (AEI and the Institute for the Study of War, 2010), and author of the series of reports “Choosing Victory” (AEI), which recommended and monitored the US military surge in Iraq. His most recent book is “Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields” (AEI Press, 2010, with Thomas Donnelly). Previously an associate professor of military history at West Point, Kagan is a contributing editor at The Weekly Standard and has written for Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and other periodicals.
Elizabeth O’Bagy is a research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), where she focuses on Syrian politics and security. Before joining ISW, she received the Critical Language Scholarship to study Arabic at the American School in Tangier, Morocco.
Katherine Zimmerman is a senior analyst and the al Qaeda and associated movements team lead for AEI’s Critical Threats Project. Her work has focused on al Qaeda’s affiliates in the Gulf of Aden region and associated movements in Western and Northern Africa. She specializes in the Yemen-based group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia, al Shabaab. Zimmerman has testified in front of Congress and briefed members of Congress, congressional staff, and members of the defense community. She has written analyses of US national security interests related to the threat from the al Qaeda network for The Weekly Standard, National Review Online, and the Huffington Post, among others.