In a video address released just hours ago, President Obama for the first time publicly posits a link between the Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
“We know that [Abdulmutallab] travelled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies,” Obama says. “It appears that he joined an affiliate of al-Qaeda, and that this group, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America.”
The president says he will work to strengthen a technical, intelligence, and operational partnership with the Yemeni government in combatting the jihadist group.
At one point in the video, Obama uses the word “war” to describe the fight against al-Qaeda, a characterization he has traditionally avoided. But he speaks only broadly of the war’s scope, objectives, and enemies.
“Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred, and that we will do whatever it takes to defeat them and defend our country,” Obama says.
The video also contains thinly-veiled criticism of the counter-terror strategy of George W. Bush. Obama says that the current administration has “refocused the fight” against al-Qaeda on Afghanistan and Pakistan, while “bringing to a responsible end to the war in Iraq, which had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.”
Speaking broadly once more, Obama says that this strategy has reaped benefits, thwarting unspecified terrorist plots on U.S. soil and saving “countless American lives.”