The threat posed by Khorasan was not as “imminent” as top US officials have suggested, and the Al Qaeda terror cell did not appear to be as “aspirational” as suggested, according to a senior American official.
Bruce O. Riedel, a former CIA analyst who is now a senior fellow at the liberal Brookings Institution, told the New York Times, “There’s a contradiction here. If they [Al Qaeda] are decimated, why are we so alarmed when we detect evidence of their activities?”
Khorasan was believed to be originally sent to Syria through the orders of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who appointed senior AQ operative Muhsin al-Fadhli to lead a small team of jihadi experts. Khorasan was reportedly squarely focused on developing and executing attacks against the West.
The Times revealed that quite a few government officials had doubts in the story that Khorasan had the ability to hit the US “imminently,” as suggested by top officials such as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey, and Attorney General Eric Holder.
Attorney General Holder said Tuesday: “We hit them last night out of a concern that they were getting close to an execution date of some of the plans that we have seen, 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 allies or to the homeland.”
Instead, the report suggests the possibility that the United States found “specific intelligence” about the whereabouts of al-Fadhli, and Obama approved a kill order before the Al Qaeda operative could get away.
While the New York Times does raise doubts about the threats posed by the Al Qaeda sub group, what remains unknown and unexplained is why Holder, Clapper, and other officials told the American people that Khorasan was an “imminent threat.”
Some have suggested that the move to describe Khorasan as an “imminent threat” allowed President Obama to forgo congressional approval and utilize the War Powers Resolution, which gives the president justification to take unilateral measures when it is determined that an actor is a direct threat to the United States.