US determined to destroy Al Qaeda in Pakistan or elsewhere: Obama aide

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : President Barack Obama’s top counter-terrorism aide says US is determined to destroy “Al Qaeda, whether it’s in Pakistan, Afghanistan, or in Yemen.”

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The United States has indications Al Qaeda is planning an attack against a target in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, John Brennan, Obama’s assistant for homeland security and counter-terrorism, said in a series of TV talk shows Sunday.

The group had “several hundred members” in Yemen and was posing an increasing threat there. “This is something that we’ve known about for a while,” he told CNN. “We’re determined to destroy Al Qaeda, whether it’s in Pakistan, Afghanistan, or in Yemen.”

The US closed its embassy in Sanaa Sunday, saying it had taken the action “in response to ongoing threats by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to attack American interests in Yemen.”

A Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is charged with attempting to bomb a US aircraft on Christmas Day was trained at one of the militant training camps hit during a December operation, Brennan said on “Fox News Sunday”.

Brennan said there were “several hundred” Al Qaeda members in Yemen and that “we are doing everything possible to scour all the intelligence that is out there to see whether or not there’s another Abdulmutallab out there.”

Human error and system lapses, rather than deliberate concealing of information, allowed the terror suspect with explosives to board the US bound plane, Brennan said differentiating it from the Sep 11, 2001, terror attacks.

“It’s not like 9/11,” Brennan said, adding that the “system didn’t work as it should have” due to “lapses” and “human error.”

“There wasn’t an effort to try to conceal information,” he said, referring to the competition and turf wars among security agencies prior to the 2001 attacks, which was later blamed for the failure to prevent them.

“There is no smoking gun piece of intelligence out there,” Brennan said.

Responding to former vice president Dick Cheney’s criticism of the Obama White House’s terrorism-fighting policies Brennan said he has worked for five administrations and that Obama is as determined as anyone to keep the nation safe. Cheney said last week that Obama is “trying to pretend” that the US is not at war with terrorists. The result, the Republican Cheney said, is that Americans are less safe.

“I’m very disappointed in the vice president’s comments,” Brennan said adding that “partisan politics should be put aside when something as important to national security as the threat of terrorism . … It continues to haunt us.

“And we have to make sure that we stay focused on Al Qaeda. And so that’s what I’m going to do in this job. I don’t care what Republicans or Democrats say out there. We need to continue to prosecute this war because Al Qaeda the organization needs to be destroyed.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])