January 15, 2015 | Quote

Obama’s ‘Lone Wolf’ Focus Misguided as Terrorist Threat Expands, Critics Say

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claims Charlie Hebdo attack; Islamic State wreaks havoc

In recent years, Mr. Obama and his advisers increasingly have placed their focus on “lone wolf” actors inspired by radical Islamist ideology but working outside known terrorist networks, and on “foreign fighters” holding Western passports who could carry out commando-style attacks in the U.S. after returning from Syria or Iraq. The White House’s evolving outlook of decentralized terrorism also reached the point this week where White House press secretary Josh Earnest said officials will no longer use the phrase “radical Islam” because it doesn’t accurately describe terrorists’ motivations.

Some security analysts, and Republicans, said that attitude appears to be a confused attempt to whitewash reality.

“I would call them jihadists, which is a distinct ideology within the Islamic world,” said Thomas Joscelyn, senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington. “It trivializes the whole situation to pretend that you can avoid the discussion altogether. There’s a civil war within the Islamic world, and we’re a party to that, whether we want to be or not.”

“If this was an orchestrated attack by AQAP, that means the indications were missed by the intelligence communities, both in Europe and in the U.S.,” Mr. Joscelyn said. “AQAP is under a lot of scrutiny. If AQAP did direct this attack, that means even with all the monitoring and intelligence, they still managed to get one through.”

Mr. Joscelyn said al-Ansi and other top commanders of AQAP in Yemen are “core al Qaeda” with direct links to the successors of Osama bin Laden.

“The idea that ‘core al Qaeda‘ is this small group that can be droned to death, and everybody else is something else, is just wrong,” said Mr. Joscelyn, who has testified before Congress about evolving jihadi threats. “Not everything else is full-fledged al Qaeda, but some of it is. The threats have spread out over the last several years. That’s not a sign of weakness on their part; it’s a sign of growing strength.”

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Al Qaeda