Two recent events confirm that measures taken since the September 11th attacks have made us safer.
First, the National Intelligence Estimate, a summary of which has been unclassified, assessing terrorist threats to the U.S. over the next three years concludes that our enemies are actively planning against us. Despite this dire warning, the report confirms that the counter-terrorism efforts undertaken by the intelligence community and our military have constrained the ability of al Qaeda to attack us.
It’s no coincidence that American soil has been kept safe from attack since 9/11. The steps we’ve taken to secure our homeland and protect our interests abroad have helped stop terror plots before an attack occurs. In January 2006, Osama bin Laden warned that al Qaeda was planning another strike on the U.S. homeland. Later that year, British authorities foiled a plan to blow up passenger flights flying to America. Intelligence networks indicate the plot was just two the three weeks away from execution. If it had been carried out, the destruction and loss of human life could have rivaled 9/11. We must continue to remain vigilant.
The National Intelligence Estimate notes that al Qaeda has redoubled its efforts to hatch terrorist plots and kill Americans both in the U.S. and abroad as its leadership continues to plan high-impact plots and recruit others to its murderous cause. Among the findings of the estimate is that while al Qaeda’s intent to attack us is undiminished, they continue to adapt and improve on their tactics and capabilities. The report also notes that al Qaeda’s branch in Iraq (al Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI) is the terrorist network’s “most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack us here,” underscoring the importance of completing our nation’s mission successfully in Iraq.
Second, Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker briefed about 50 Members of Congress on the progress we’re making in Iraq along with the challenges we continue to face. I had hoped that more lawmakers would have attended the briefing, but I was pleased to see a bipartisan group. Just in the last few weeks, we’ve captured the number one al Qaeda-Iraq operative and picked up scores of other group members who have been sent into Iraq to conduct suicide missions. As related in the briefing, we do expect to see an increase in the number of attacks leading into September.
But as a result of the surge – which was completed just several weeks ago – American forces are now truly on offense against al Qaeda in Iraq for the first time, and we are turning the tables on the enemy. American military commanders are already witnessing some significant gains since the surge was completed and General Petraeus launched “Operation Phantom Thunder,” the new, multi-faceted offensive against al-Qaeda terrorists, insurgents, and illegal sectarian militias. Since this new offensive began, attacks, casualties and IEDs detonations have all decreased, while more than 175 high-value terrorists, insurgents, and militia fighters have either been killed or arrested since June 15. This is a key step toward success in Iraq and bringing our troops home.
An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily asks the question, “Petraeus is talking; is anyone listening?” The editorial notes some recent comments Gen. Petraeus has made regarding the surge:
“We have achieved what we believe is a reasonable degree of tactical momentum on the ground, gains against the principle near-term threat, al Qaeda Iraq.”
“(We have seen) the detention, or the capture or killing of (a) number of leaders that we have taken out in recent months … and the progress in terms of just clearing areas of them. … So there has been considerable progress against them.”
Retreat is not an option. al Qaeda remains our principle enemy in Iraq, and our military continues to evolve to meet this threat. There is no question that we’re making progress in securing Iraq, and we’re making progress taking in going on offense against al Qaeda. And every measure of progress we make in Iraq makes us safer here at home.