Berlin – The organizational energy and sophisticated firepower used to attack the U.S. consulate in Benghazi struck many seasoned counterterrorism experts as indicative of of an al-Qaeda-animated attack. There was, for example, no shortage of evidence connecting key al-Qaeda member Muhammad Jamal al Kashef to the September 11, 2012, terror attack resulting in the killings of four Americans. My Foundation for Defense of Democracies colleague Thomas Joscelyn provides a powerful bill of particulars to debunk the New York Times article asserting an al-Qaeda link was non-existent during the bloody Benghazi assault.
The ubiquity of al-Qaeda across many countries in North Africa, western Iraq, and northern Syria should jolt policymakers in the Obama administration to internalize that al-Qaeda remains an active lethal threat to the United States. There has been an odd attempt to pooh-pooh the severity of al-Qaeda’s organizational potency. Recall President Obama boasting that “Al Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated.”
There are currently an estimated 11,000 global jihadists fighting in Syria, of whom as many as 4,000 hold European passports. What is apparently being ignored in Benghazi (and elsewhere) is the role of al-Qaeda’s ideology (and other forms of radical Islamic ideology) to attract combatants. The Obama administration seems to struggle at times with the notion that terror ideologies grounded in radical Islam are the motivating factors fueling attacks on the United States and our values.
The distinguished British historian Sir Ian Kershaw described the obscene strength of the Hitler movement as inculcating an ideology among its followers of “working toward the Führer.” The same concept applies to the adherents of the various manifestations of lethal political Islamism (al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Iran) that seek to radically reorganize societies.
There has been a kind of closing of the American counterterrorism mind at the Grey Lady and within segments of the Obama administration. After all, even the United Nations – an institution that usually runs away from terrorist designations – concluded the al-Qaeda operative Muhammad Jamal al Kashef had a connection to the Benghazi attack.
This shortsightedness does not bode well for U.S. national-security interests.
— Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter@BenWeinthal