Obama administration has had numerous counterterrorism successes, including killing or capturing terror leaders
Top Al Qaeda leaders killed in joint U.S.-Iraqi raid; "potentially the most significant blow to Al Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency." The New York Times reported on April 19 that Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri -- two top Al Qaeda in Iraq leaders -- were "killed in a joint raid between Iraqi and United States forces." The Times further reported that Gen. Ray Odierno, the top American military commander in Iraq, said, "The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to Al Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency." From the article:
''The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to Al Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency,'' said Gen. Ray Odierno, the top American military commander in Iraq, in a statement. ''The Government of Iraq intelligence services and security forces supported by U.S. intelligence and special operations forces have over the last several months continued to degrade A.Q.I. There is still work to do but this is a significant step forward in ridding Iraq of terrorists.''
Top Taliban military commander Baradar captured in joint U.S.-Pakistani effort. The Los Angeles Times reported that the February capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban's second in command, occurred "largely because the United States was also able to provide something else Pakistan has demanded for years: solid intelligence on where Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar could be found."
"[K]ey al-Qaeda figure" al-Yemeni killed in U.S. drone strike. In March, a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan reportedly killed Hussein al-Yemeni, a "top al-Qaeda planner." Al-Yemeni was believed to have helped plan the December 2009 attack on a base in Afghanistan that killed seven CIA agents.
"[U]nder US pressure to clamp down on Al-Qaeda," Yemeni forces killed six senior Al Qaeda figures. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on January 16 that "Yemen confirmed ... the deaths of six senior Al-Qaeda figures in an air strike as its security forces pressed ahead with a crackdown on the group by arresting three suspected militants." AFP reported that Yemen's "interior ministry said Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) military boss Qassem al-Rimi died when a missile hit his vehicle." AFP further noted that "Yemen is under US pressure to clamp down on Al-Qaeda, and analysts say that the government in the impoverished state is keen to show the world it can crush Al-Qaeda militants on its own." The Associated Press also reported on February 13 that "[t]he Obama administration has also benefited from stepped-up cooperation with officials in Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland of Yemen. Authorities there killed 30 suspected militants in airstrikes in December closely coordinated with U.S. intelligence agencies."
Islamic Jihad Union's Jalolov killed in drone strike. The AP reported in the same article that in 2009, U.S. "drone strikes in Pakistan killed Najmiddin Jalolov, whose Islamic Jihad Union claimed responsibility for bombings in 2004 at U.S. and Israeli embassies in Uzbekistan. Senior al Qaeda operatives Saleh al-Somali and Abdallah Sa'id were killed in airstrikes in December."
Administration has successfully prosecuted terrorists, gathered intelligence from captives
Attempted NYC subway bomber Zazi reportedly "shar[ing] information about confederates overseas." The Washington Post reported that Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan national who reportedly received training from Al Qaeda in Pakistan and pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in February, agreed to "share information about confederates overseas" and "began to accelerate his cooperation after authorities charged his Afghan-born father with crimes and threatened to charge his mother with immigration offenses -- options that are not available in the military justice system."
NY Times: Zazi plea "marks the successful prosecution of a terrorist in an advanced plot." A February 22 New York Times article reported that Zazi's guilty plea "marks the successful prosecution of a terrorist in an advanced plot in which explosive materials similar to those used in the 2005 London subway and bus attacks were actually brought into New York." The Times also stated that Zazi "had begun providing information to prosecutors as part of the initial stages of an agreement that led to his guilty plea."
Newsweek's Isikoff: Zazi is the "fourth major terror suspect to cut deals or at least begin plea negotiations with the FBI in recent months." Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reported that suspects interrogated by the FBI "have already produced a bonanza of intelligence about the inner workings of Al Qaeda and its affiliates that is being actively used by security services around the world."
From Isikoff's February 22 blog post:
By pleading guilty to plotting what he called a "martyrdom operation" and agreeing to cooperate about his Al Qaeda contacts in Pakistan, Zazi becomes the fourth major terror suspect to cut deals or at least begin plea negotiations with the FBI in recent months. Those suspects have already produced a bonanza of intelligence about the inner workings of Al Qaeda and its affiliates that is being actively used by security services around the world, according to current and former U.S. counterterrorism officials and numerous press reports.
Since last summer alone, the terror suspects who are publicly known to have cooperated with the FBI include Bryant Neal Vinas, a former Long Island, New York truck driver who has acknowledged providing Al Qaeda with information about New York area transit systems; David Coleman Headley, a Chicago resident who had contacts with a high level Al Qaeda linked figure in Pakistan and conducted scouting runs for the November, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian suspect who tried to blow up the Northwest airlines flight on Christmas Day. Officials say Abdulmutallab began cooperating about his contacts with Al Qaeda in Yemen after the FBI reached out to two members of his family in Nigeria -- one of them his mother -- and brought them to Detroit to persuade the suspect to begin cooperating.
"These are major flips. This is huge information that these guys are giving," said Ali Soufan, a former top FBI counterterrorism agent who is now a security consultant based in the Middle East. "This shows that law enforcement can be strong tool at our disposal.
Just as importantly, notes Soufan, law-enforcement and intelligence officials around the world have been eager to talk to the FBI suspects -- and use the information they are providing -- precisely because it was gleaned without the use of rough interrogation tactics, like waterboarding or sleep deprivation, that would create political problems in most major Western countries that have officially condemned such tactics.
Vinas, for example, has provided evidence in a terrorism case in Belgium. Indian investigators have traveled to Chicago to learn what Headley has been saying as part of their continued investigation into the Mumbai attacks.
David Coleman Headley pleaded guilty in exchange for information about international terrorists. Headley, a U.S. citizen, agreed to plead guilty in March for his role in the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India. The Christian Science Monitor reported that the deal "is contingent on Mr. Headley's full cooperation with US intelligence officials and prosecutors." The Monitor noted that "Headley's plea agreement says he's been cooperating with US officials since his arrest in October 2009, and that he has already provided 'substantial assistance.' "
Administration sources say Abdulmutallab currently "cooperating," officials say he provided intelligence after being Mirandized. Responding to Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein in a February 2 hearing (accessed via the Nexis database), FBI Director Robert Mueller agreed that alleged attempted Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab "has provided valuable information" and that "the interrogation continues despite the fact that he has been Mirandized." Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified in the same hearing: "There are decisions that have to be made in which you balance the requirement for intelligence with the requirement for a prosecution and the sorts of pressure that you bring onto the people that you arrest in either form. It's got to be a decision made at the time. And I think the balance struck in the Mutallab was a very -- was an understandable balance. We got good intelligence, we're getting more."
Moreover, a February 2 Reuters article reported "a law enforcement official['s]" comment that "Abdulmutallab is talking and has been talking since last week providing useful, actionable and current intelligence that we've been actively following up on." The New York Times also reported:
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a jetliner bound for Detroit on Dec. 25, started talking to investigators after two of his family members arrived in the United States and helped earn his cooperation, a senior administration official said Tuesday evening.
Mr. Abdulmutallab, 23, began speaking to F.B.I. agents last week in Detroit and has not stopped, two government officials said. The officials declined to disclose what information was obtained from him, but said it was aiding in the investigation of the attempted terrorist attack.
"With the family, the F.B.I. approached the suspect," the senior administration official said, speaking to reporters at the White House on the condition of anonymity because of the pending legal case. "He has been cooperating for days." [New York Times, 2/2/10]
Pakistan has "allowed American interrogators to question [Baradar] regularly." Following Baradar's capture in February, The New York Times reported that "a senior Obama administration official in Washington said that Pakistani authorities had Mullah Baradar in custody and still allowed American interrogators to question him regularly." The Times quoted the official as saying Baradar is "talking to us" but he is "not giving us any actionable intelligence."
Obama has stepped up use of drone strikes; increased troop levels and funding in Afghanistan
"Obama has increased [the use of drones] even further." The AP article also stated that "[d]rone strikes began increasing in the final months of the Bush administration, thanks in part to expanded use of the Reaper, a newer generation aircraft with better targeting systems and greater, more accurate firepower" and that "Obama has increased their use even further." The article further quoted Thomas Sanderson, a defense analyst and national security fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, as saying: "These tools were not Obama creations, but he's increased their use and he has shifted the U.S. attention full front to Afghanistan."
U.S. "will increase the official number of American boots on the ground [in Pakistan] by 25 percent." The Washington Post reported on April 29 that "a strategic decision" by the United States and Pakistan "to improve counterterrorism cooperation, along with the personnel requirements of increased U.S. aid, have led in recent months to a small but significant expansion in the U.S. presence in Pakistan." From the article:
The scheduled arrival of 50 additional U.S. military personnel to Pakistan in June, accompanying four new F-16 fighter jets, will increase the official number of American boots on the ground there by 25 percent. It is enough to make the Pakistani government shudder with trepidation.
There are currently about 200 U.S. military involved in security assistance in Pakistan, including a Special Operations training and advisory contingent, initially set at 80 troops, that has twice been enlarged since last year and now totals up to 140 troops in two Pakistani locations, according to senior U.S. military officials. The Pakistani government prohibits U.S. combat forces.
The CIA has sent additional intelligence-gathering operatives and technicians in recent months. Plans are underway to establish a joint military intelligence processing center. After an initial period of tension, Pakistani officers are using cross-border intelligence compiled at two joint coordination centers on the Afghan side of the frontier.
Obama has increased U.S. forces in Afghanistan, requested more funding for effort. In December 2009, Obama announced that he would send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. In February 2009, Obama said that he would deploy additional forces to Afghanistan -- which reportedly included 17,000 troops -- and in March 2009, Obama announced that an additional 4,000 troops would be deployed to train Afghan forces. And in February 2010, the White House reportedly requested $33 billion from Congress to pay for the 30,000 additional troops being sent to Afghanistan.
Defense Department increased funding for drones, surveillance. As The New York Times reported April 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates "announced an extra $2 billion for intelligence and surveillance equipment, including new Predator and Reaper drones, the remote-controlled vehicles currently used in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq for strikes against militants, and more spending on special forces and training foreign military units."
Bush also said that America is not at war with Islam
Bush: "[T]he war against terrorism is not a war against Muslims." In a September 19, 2001, press conference, former President George W. Bush said: "[T]he war against terrorism is not a war against Muslims, nor is it a war against Arabs. It's a war against evil people who conduct crimes against innocent people."
Bush rejected claim "that West is engaged in a war against Islam." In a September 2006 address to the U.N. General Assembly, Bush said: "I'd like to speak directly to the people across the broader Middle East: My country desires peace. Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false, and its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror. We respect Islam, but we will protect our people from those who pervert Islam to sow death and destruction. Our goal is to help you build a more tolerant and hopeful society that honors people of all faiths and promote the peace."