Al-Qaeda Still a Threat: No Surprise to Heritage

Kyle Bevers /

Two U.S. intelligence leaders warned this week that continued inaction against al-Qaeda and its affiliates will be problematic.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Defense Intelligence Agency director Michael Flynn largely corroborated the forecast set in June 2011 by The Heritage Foundation’s Counterterrorism Task Force. “The strength of the insurgency is now estimated at somewhere between 75,000 [to] 115,000,” Clapper said, “who are organized into more than 1,500 groups of widely varying political leanings.”

As Heritage’s Task Force foresaw, a lack of attention by the Obama Administration allowed the resurrection of al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups: “The premature drawdown in Afghanistan will allow the Taliban to re-establish space for al-Qaeda to rebuild sanctuaries in the country.” The world watched as al-Qaeda and its affiliates resurfaced and became a threat to the rest of the international community. The Task Force held that the U.S. must be persistent in its hard power approach in preventing an emergence of Islamist insurgency.

Clapper suggested in January that detecting terrorism is not becoming any easier. As cities in Iraq are taken over by al-Qaeda, both Clapper and the Task Force believe it occurred only because of a collapse of internal security. A withdrawal of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan could result in the same outcome as Iraq and allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for al-Qaeda operatives.

The Obama Administration has done little to put al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations to rest. As al-Qaeda has evolved throughout the past decade, President Obama must form new policy in combating a growing threat to U.S. national security and the international community as a whole. Both Clapper and Flynn reiterated that terrorist groups will continue to develop if the Administration continues along with its current policy.

Kyle Bevers is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.