Al Qaeda Using Syria as a Staging Area for Attacks on the West

Posted: Mar 26, 2014 8:55 AM

"Al Qaeda is on the run," President Barack Obama repeatedly said in 2012 during his presidential campaign against Mitt Romney. "Al Qaeda has been decimated."

While President Obama continues to address power grabs by Russia through an "international community" lens, Russian supported Syria is being invaded by al Qaeda fighters who are setting up bases from which they can attack western targets. More from the New York Times:

Dozens of seasoned militant fighters, including some midlevel planners, have traveled to Syria from Pakistan in recent months in what American intelligence and counterterrorism officials fear is an effort to lay the foundation for future strikes against Europe and the United States.

“We are concerned about the use of Syrian territory by the Al Qaeda organization to recruit individuals and develop the capability to be able not just to carry out attacks inside of Syria, but also to use Syria as a launching pad,” John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, told a House panel recently.

The extremists who concern Mr. Brennan are part of a group of Qaeda operatives in Pakistan that has been severely depleted in recent years by a decade of American drone strikes. But the fighters still bring a wide range of skills to the battlefield, such as bomb-building, small-arms tactics, logistics, religious indoctrination and planning, though they are not believed to have experience in launching attacks in the West.

Since President Obama drew his so-called red line on Syria, tens of thousands more people have been slaughtered and the Assad regime has repeatedly missed deadlines to turn over chemical weapons that have been used against civilians. Further, the former head of an Iranian based al Qaeda group is now living and working in Syria to plan attacks.

Muhsin al Fadhli, a senior al Qaeda leader who once headed the organization's network in Iran, relocated to Syria in mid-2013, according to a report in The Arab Times on March 21. Citing anonymous sources, the publication reports that al Fadhli has joined the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch in Syria. He was apparently sent to the country after a dispute broke out between Al Nusrah and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS).

Al Fadhli was one of the trusted operatives who reported back to Ayman al Zawahiri on the dispute, according to the Arab Times, and he influenced al Qaeda's decision to eventually disown ISIS.

Today, al Fadhli reportedly recruits European Muslims to join the jihad in Syria and "trains them on how to execute terror operations in the western countries, focusing mostly on means of public transportation such as trains and airplanes."