Reporters Grill St Dept Over Obama's 'Al Qaeda On The Run' Comments

Reporters Grill St Dept Over Obama's 'Al Qaeda On The Run' Comments

Reporters in the State Department press pool on Tuesday asked Spokeswoman Jen Psaki to respond to critics that see the embassy closings and increased threat by Al Qaeda as a failure in Obama’s security policy. President Obama and the administration has previously stated that Al Qaeda was “on the run” and that the “core leadership” was “decimated.” Psaki reiterated the claim that the leadership was “decimated” and referred to the “fact” of President Obama’s previous speeches over national security. “we consider this to be one of the foremost national security challenges we face. But again, we have – we point to the successes – the President pointed to the successes, including the decimation of the core of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but we remain concerned about the threat from affiliates, and that’s been our consistent viewpoint,” Psaki said.

TRANSCRIPT:

QUESTION: How do you respond to critics that say the Administration’s overall terror strategy is wrong, that al-Qaida – the core, you’ve said repeatedly, has been decimated, is the lexicon from the White House. But here they are, planning another attack, and we have this big – excuse me – ordered departure. And here it is supposedly led by Usama bin Ladin’s protege, Nasir Wuhayshi.
MS. PSAKI: I do. I would point you to a couple of things. One, the leadership of the al-Qaida core has been weakened, decimated. And I would point you to the President’s speech that he gave just a few months ago where he talked about that, how the core of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat, but we have consistently expressed a concern about affiliates – and this is an example of that – and the fact that they continue to present a serious threat to the United States and its interests. And we consider this to be one of the foremost national security challenges we face. But again, we have – we point to the successes – the President pointed to the successes, including the decimation of the core of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but we remain concerned about the threat from affiliates, and that’s been our consistent viewpoint.
QUESTION: But Jen, there’s been success, but a ship does not sail on yesterday’s winds. I mean, today there’s this – a major ordered departure, and what do you say to people that disagree with that?
MS. PSAKI: That’s very lyrical. (Laughter.) I would say that the United States Government and the State Department, we continue to devote considerable resources to the ongoing effort to – on counterterrorism. That is a primary focus and something that the President, the Secretary, Secretary Hagel, and many in the government are very focused on. And – but we’re not naive about the challenges we face, and that’s why we continue to take them head-on.
QUESTION: And lastly, you call the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula an affiliate, but it looks like this is a fairly linear organization to their parent, al-Qaida. I mean, these communications went from the top to this guy, Wuhayshi, so –
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have anything more for you on that. What I’m referring to is the core of al-Qaida that we’ve talked about in the past, that, as we all know, was based in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve referred to that, but remain concerned about the threat from affiliates around the world.
QUESTION: On the issue of –
QUESTION: Your answer to the first question, though, is – leaves a little bit to be desired. The question was: Critics, what do you say to critics who say that the claims that core al-Qaida are decimated are perhaps called into question by this? And your response was: Look at what the President said; he said that al-Qaida, core al-Qaida, was on the path to defeat. And that doesn’t prove anything.
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s a –
QUESTION: Just because someone says –
MS. PSAKI: That is a fact.
QUESTION: Just because someone says something doesn’t make it true, necessarily.
MS. PSAKI: I was reiterating –
QUESTION: I think –
MS. PSAKI: — the fact that that is.
QUESTION: Well, if you’re going to point – people who are criticizing the Administration about this are not going to be satisfied with an answer that just – and, in fact, no one should be satisfied with an answer that – well, the President said it, so it’s true.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Well, I will reiterate –
QUESTION: Okay. So, can – what can you -
MS. PSAKI: — our policy, our view –
QUESTION: — tell those – so what can you tell –
MS. PSAKI: — is that the core of al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan is on the path to defeat. We remain concerned about –
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: — affiliates. That has been our consistent view.
QUESTION: Okay. But that view is not necessarily a fact, and you have to support it with something. And so I presume you would say, well, bin Ladin is dead, many others –
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: — have been killed. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, I would.
QUESTION: Okay. So that’s your response to the critics, not, “The President said it, so it’s true.”
MS. PSAKI: That – Matt, I was not inferring that by any means.
QUESTION: Okay. Good.
MS. PSAKI: I was repeating what is a fact, and there’s been some confusion about the points that have been made.
QUESTION: Okay.
QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to ask you –
QUESTION: Just to follow up on this, I mean, if –
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Sorry. So, just to follow up on the point before, so if the affiliate’s still coordinating with Ayman al-Zawahiri, with al-Qaida central –
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So what’s the difference if you kill five of them and you still have one central figure that coordinating with the affiliates in the region, so they’re still able and potent and they can pose serious threat as have – we have seen in the last few days?
MS. PSAKI: And we remain concerned about the affiliates, and that’s why we are focused on counterterrorism every single day.
QUESTION: But the affiliates are linked to the – what my point is, they still take an order from al-Qaida central. They’re not operating separately. That’s my point.
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s just been some confusion about what point we’re making and what the facts are. We have always consistently said – we’ve consistently said we’ve been concerned about the threat of al-Qaida’s affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula. And I was just reiterating that this is not a new concern; this is something that we have expressed concern about. This is not a statement of fact, but I referred to the President’s speech as an example of that.
QUESTION: But Jen –
QUESTION: Zawahiri is still giving orders to al-Qaida in Yemen, has given orders to al-Qaida in Iraq, and to a certain extent in Syria, over this recent split. So he’s still calling the shot. Ayman al-Zawahiri was al-Qaida central still giving order to all these affiliates to operate on his behalf.
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve stated our view here. I don’t have anything further for you on specifics.

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