George W. Bush had one politically devastating “mission accomplished” moment. Obama has had over 30 of them.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, the president regularly touted his administration’s successful execution of the war against Islamic terrorism. Obama and his allies often described al-Qaeda as “decimated” and “on the run,” but a new report suggests that the terror group and its affiliates were growing in numbers and operational capacity even then.
According to a RAND corporation study, there has been a 58 percent increase in the number of jihadist groups since 2010 as well as a “doubling” of Islamic fundamentalist fighters and a “tripling” of the number of attacks carried out by al-Qaeda affiliates.
The study examined thousands of unclassified and declassified documents to create a database of information on the number of jihadist groups, the numbers in their ranks, and their activity.
“One reason for the increase in groups, fighters and attacks is the weakness of governments across North Africa and the Middle East,” the RAND release asserted. “Weak governments have difficulty establishing law and order, which allows militant groups and other sub-state actors to fill the vacuum.”
“After more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, it may be tempting for the U.S. to turn its attention elsewhere and scale back on counterterrorism efforts,” the study’s author and RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center Director Seth Jones said. “But this research indicates that the struggle is far from over.”
As reluctant as the present administration may be to agree with Jones, they appear to recognize the pressing nature of the threat to national security posed by the proliferation of jihadist groups.
U.S. officials confirmed on Wednesday that both Iranian drones and Syrian fighters conducted surveillance and combat missions over Iraq on Tuesday. Secretary of State John Kerry warned that Iraq, where ISIS fighters have captured large swaths of territory, may “act as a flashpoint” for the ignition of a region-wide sectarian war.
Meanwhile, ISIS continued its advance throughout the country on Wednesday. Sunni militants captured a series of small oil fields and mounted an attack on one of Iraq’s largest air bases. The government in Baghdad also warned that Sunni militants were closing in on Iraq’s Haditha Dam about 120 miles north of Baghdad, the second largest dam in Iraq which they warned would cause catastrophic flooding and damage if it was sabotaged.