Al-Qaeda militants may be using Syria as a new launchpad for attacks on the West, having been largely driven out of Pakistan by drone strikes. Several American counterterrorism officials have warned that al-Qaeda leaders in Syria are joining forces with Muslims from Europe and the United States who have come there to fight. The New York Times reports:
“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. […]Al Qaeda has in the past blessed the creation of local branches in places like Yemen, where an affiliate has tried to strike the United States. But the effort in Syria would signify the first time that senior Qaeda leaders had set up a wing of their own outside Pakistan dedicated to conducting attacks against the West, counterterrorism officials said. It also has the potential to rejuvenate Al Qaeda’s central command, which President Obama has described as being greatly diminished.
The Obama Administration has mostly stayed out of Syria in part because it fears that arming the rebels would help al-Qaeda. But as many people (inside the Administration and out) have been pointing out for years now, allowing the Syrian civil war to turn into a long-term, destabilizing horror was the best possible way to help al-Qaeda gain followers and bases. The polarization and hate that a long and brutal civil war engenders, along with the anarchy following a stalemate, often create the perfect breeding ground for terrorists.We are receiving more and more confirmation that this is exactly what is happening. While so far as we know no one is advocating that the United States put boots on the ground, the current stance clearly isn’t working. Historians will look back on Obama’s Syria policy as both a moral disaster and a strategic blunder.