Senior and mid-level U.S. intelligence and defense officials who have tracked the threat tell The Daily Beast that the alarm raised about the Khorasan Group came from within the intelligence community and particularly from the U.S. military’s special operations task forces that monitor al Qaeda and the Levant. “The senior leadership in the military didn’t want to ask the question when they knew the answer would be ‘no,’” said the senior U.S. intelligence official quoted earlier about why the targeting packages were not sent to the White House in June.
It’s true that inside the U.S. government the teams of analysts and operators that track terrorist leaders are often the strongest advocates for going after their targets. But in this case, the broader U.S. intelligence community was frustrated with a White House that had ruled out any kind of Syrian intervention. It’s easy to see why many spies and military officers were left with this impression. In late June and early July, President Obama had not even authorized airstrikes in Iraq even though the Iraqi government had asked him for those strikes. While the White House did approve in early July an attempted rescue mission to save Western journalists captured by ISIS, there was no expectation that the president was even close to authorizing lethal strikes against a terrorist network that no U.S. officials had even spoken about yet in public.