U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in an interview with Yahoo News, hinted at American ground troops “ultimately” going into Syria.
President Obama has repeatedly said that he will not send U.S. ground troops into Iraq or Syria.
Holder also indicated that the U.S. may launch more attacks against the al Qaeda-linked Khorasan Group and revealed that the White House has been monitoring the group for two years.
During an interview published Wednesday, Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric asked Holder how the U.S. airstrikes in Syria on Monday night had impacted the Khorasan Group.
“We’re certainly going to have to look at the impact of these strikes that were taken last night,” Holder said. “I also assume that those are not the only strikes that will be taken against the Khorasan Group or the other strikes that we took in Syria. It will take a prolonged period of time for these strikes and ultimately for the ground troops that will have to come in and deal with these people.”
According to the Pentagon, “Khorasan group compounds, their manufacturing workshops, and training camps” were among the primary targets of the airstrikes in Syria on Monday night.
None of the five Arab countries that have joined the U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State (also known at ISIS and ISIL) in Syria and Iraq participated in attacking the Khorasan Group.
Holder said the Obama White House has known about the shadowy al Qaeda cell for two years.
“This is a group that has been known to us for two years. I’ve sat in the [White House] Situation Room with the president, with the national security team,” said the Attorney General, “and we have been closely monitoring the Khorasan Group for that period of time.”
Reiterating revelations made by U.S. defense officials yesterday, Holder said:
We hit them last night out of the concern that they were getting close to an execution phase of some of the plans that we have seen them fomenting over the last two years and the hitting that we did last night, I think, will probably continue until we are at a stage where we think we have degraded their ability to get at our at allies or to the homeland.
Pentagon officials explained yesterday that it is too early to fully assess the impact of the airstrikes on Khorasan targets, which reportedly included Muhsin al-Fadhli, the group’s leader.
Al-Fadhli has a $7 million U.S. bounty on his head and may be linked to Iran’s alleged role in the al Qaeda attacks against the American homeland on Sept. 11, 2001.
U.S. officials have described members of the Khorasan Group as hardened al Qaeda veterans.
The cell is an offshoot of the al Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Khorasan members in Syria have been accused of plotting attacks on the United States.