Strikes on Terror Cells Don't Stop Terror Plots, Say Intelligence Officials


U.S. Air Force photo/Lt Col Leslie Pratt

A new article from the Associated Press quotes U.S. intelligence officials unknowingly acknowledging a fatal flaw in Obama's anti-terrorism strategy.

Reporting on a "barrage" of missile strikes against an Al-Qaida affiliated group in Syria known as the Khorasan Group, the article presents a string of comments from intelligence officials on the effectiveness of the strikes.

From ABC News:

"The strikes were certainly effective in setting back the Khorasan Group, but no one thinks they were a permanent solution or a death blow to the threats that come from this cell," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who serves on the House Intelligence Committee…

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the strikes disrupted the group's plotting, but he did not know for how long. FBI Director James Comey said he believed the plots had not been disrupted and that the group remains a threat to the U.S. Other intelligence officials embraced Comey's view.

What this shows is a clear consensus that the strikes have likely done little more than delay the group's activities. However, bombing also has unintended consequences, which the article acknowledges—namely the loss of innocent life:

One of the U.S. missiles went awry and killed a dozen civilians in the village of Kfar Derian, according to Mohammed Abu Omar, an activist in the northern province of Idlib.

This highlights the central problem with the Obama administration's strategy in the war on terror. Relentless bombing campaigns can only ever disrupt the activities of terror groups. They cannot counter the existence of terrorist organizations and cannot stop them from plotting attacks.

Furthermore, any progress that is made in the short term is likely to be undermined by the inevitable civilian causalities that accompany such a strategy. These casualties increase hostility toward the U.S. and its allies, creating a fertile recruiting ground for terrorist organizations to replenish their ranks and expand their supporter base. If the U.S. is to avoid Orwellian style perpetual war, it needs to find a way to combat terrorism without increasing anti-U.S. sentiments.