The attack on the natural gas facility in Algeria this past week has reopened the debate over the demise of al Qaeda. The WaPo, being as usual fair and balanced, quotes extensively GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, who naturally sees Algeria as a failure for the Obama Administration:
As American troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan in the next two years, ending a conflict that started as an effort to crush al-Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Washington and other Western capitals face the grim threat of a virulent new al-Qaeda wing capable of a broad reach.
“They are growing more dangerous. They are growing in numbers,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” show Sunday.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Rogers described the attack on an energy complex in Algeria as a strategic victory for the al-Qaeda branch — commonly known as AQIM — with echoes of a militant assault on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, in September that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.
“This is on the heels of Benghazi . . . this becomes a recruiting dream for them and a nightmare for us,” Rogers told The Post. “It shows that they can strike Western targets and gives them a confidence level.” [Emphasis mine]
Reading this, it is tempting to forget that this most recent attack did not actually occur in the West. Indeed, it did not even occur anywhere near any urban centers or centers of Algerian governmental power. The closest town to the facility seems to be the bustling metropolis of Gadamis, Libya, population roughly 10,000.
What the attack in Algeria demonstrates, if anything, is that a radical Islamist group was able to mobilize a couple of dozen guys and some heavy weapons to attack a facility fairly isolated in the depths of the Algerian wilderness. Why this represents a “grim threat… of a broad reach” is wholly unclear to me.
A week of violence in Algeria and Mali has transformed al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch into a cause celebre for militant Islamists around the globe, boosting recruitment and fundraising for the jihadists and spurring fears of further terrorist attacks in the region and beyond.
Even after suffering tactical defeats in both countries in recent days, the movement known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is being lionized in Internet chat rooms and in official statements by extremist groups, some of which are urging reprisal campaigns against Western interests. [Emphasis mine]
So, the evidence that this is a massive defeat for the Obama Administration is internet chat and press statements. Who knew we internet posters and commenters were so damned important?
I don’t want to diminish this overly. Many innocent people lost their lives. It is a real tragedy for their families. But the idea that this represents some major reversal in the largely successful struggle to minimize the threat from al Qaeda is bizarre.