In response to an unspecified Al-Qaeda plot, the State Department has issued a travel warning throughout the Middle East and North Africa and has decided to close all embassies within the region on Sunday August 4. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey stated that it is believed that the attack could originate from the Arabian peninsula, yet the location is still unknown to the U.S. intelligence community. The State Department's actions come shortly after the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi where Ambassador Chris Stevens lost his life. Yet just earlier this year at a speech at National Defense University, President Obama stated that the War on Terror was over and that Al-Qaeda's central command was defeated; only affiliates remained that posed no real threat to the United States. What happened?
According to IntelCenter, a private intelligence firm located in Washington D.C., of the 41 active Al-Qaeda affiliates operating today, 28 did not exist prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The 13 remaining affiliate groups have evolved substantially since then, however. Many of these affiliate groups operate within failed states, due to a lack of government enforcement which allows for increased ease of movement as well as the ability to set up bases of operations. Since the Arab Spring revolutions these groups have taken advantage of regional instability and have coordinated attacks within Libya, Algeria, Mali, Nigeria, Iraq, and Syria, to name a few.
Within the past month political assassinations have taken place within both Tunisia and Libya, leading to renewed rioting and protests within the streets of Tunis and Benghazi. Egypt is only getting worse as the threat of military takeover of the government increases. As if matters could not get any worse, just last month senior Al-Qaeda leadership broke out of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, just outside of Baghdad. As the Arab world continues to spiral downward, Al-Qaeda continues to make its move, growing in strength.
Recently Qasim al-Rimi, the commander of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, issued a video statement addressed to the American nation. Within the video he alludes to an imminent attack, claiming that we have brought it upon ourselves by electing aggressive tyrants into office. Al-Rimi claims that, "The Boston events, the road accidents, and the poisoned letters and others, disregard of the people behind them, indicate that the control of your security has broken away and operations against you has taken a path which can be controlled not. So grasp unto yourselves if you love yourselves. Because making these bombs has become in everyone's hand [sic] reach. So those standing against your aggression and oppression on humanity need no trouble, but a bit of thinking, choosing a location which will damage your economy and terrify your hearts, thence you will pray for woes and destruction, evoking near past memories."
In his recent national security speech, President Obama claimed that Al-Qaeda no longer poses a direct threat to the American homeland. Yet what we are seeing is that Al-Qaeda is in fact growing and gaining a foot within the Middle East and North Africa as political instability grows rampantly. As a nation, we must not give into hubris because whether we want to acknowledge this sobering fact or not, Al-Qaeda will continue to make its move.