Remember when Joe Biden said that Iraq “could be one of the great achievements of [the Obama] administration” — taking credit for the success of the surge that he and Obama opposed in the Senate, which had brought al Qaeda in Iraq to near defeat when Obama took office?
The Washington Post reports this morning that, in the wake of Obama’s withdrawal of all American forces from Iraq, al Qaeda in Iraq has made a comeback — and nearly pulled off a major attack on the US embassy in Jordan:
The plan was to unleash mayhem across an entire city and “bring Amman to its knees,” in the words of one security official. It would start with suicide bombings at two shopping malls, then build momentum as teams of terrorists blew up cars and raked cafes with machine-gun fire.
In the midst of the chaos that would ensue, the attackers would turn their attention to the U.S. Embassy, the primary target and a long-sought prize for the organization that investigators say provided critical support for the scheme: al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq….
Jordanian authorities foiled the plot last month, arresting 11 men said to be the ringleaders. Although the suspects are Jordanians, the investigation has affirmed the key role played by al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, commonly known as AQI, which analysts say is rebounding after being all but destroyed by U.S. troops in the past decade.
New evidence shared by security authorities here, including intercepted e-mails, shows that the terrorist cell received guidance from AQI. The instructions included recipes for powerful explosives intended to blow up shops, restaurants and embassies, according to Western and Middle Eastern officials briefed on the investigation.
“What we’re now seeing is al-Qaeda in Iraq’s revival, not only as a movement in that country but as a regional movement,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA counterterrorism expert who is with the Brookings Institution. From its base in the Sunni provinces west of Baghdad, AQI appears to be attempting to rebuild old networks into Syria and Jordan “at an alarming rate,” Riedel said.
If this is what Biden considers a “great achievement,” little wonder Osama bin Laden thought Biden was “totally unprepared” for the presidency.
Before the surge, on Nov. 9, 2005, AQI struck three hotels in Amman, Jordan, killing 60 people and wounding more than 100. And intelligence suggested that AQI had ambitions for even bolder attacks here in America. In 2007, President George W. Bush gave a speech warning that:
Al Qaida in Iraq shares Osama bin Laden’s goal of making Iraq a base for its radical Islamic empire, and using it as a safe haven for attacks on America. That is why our intelligence community reports — and I quote — “compared with [other leading Sunni jihadist groups], al Qaida in Iraq stands out for its extremism, unmatched operational strength, foreign leadership, and determination to take the jihad beyond Iraq’s borders.” … Hear the words of al Qaida’s top commander in Iraq when he issued an audio statement in which he said he will not rest until he has attacked our nation’s capital. If we were to cede Iraq to men like this, we would leave them free to operate from a safe haven which they could use to launch new attacks on our country.
Thanks to the surge, they were forced to focus on survival instead of fulfilling their objective of striking the American homeland. Now, a resurgent AQI is striking beyond Iraq’s borders again — in Syria and in Jordan.
Some may take comfort that AQI is focused on regional attacks. But not so long ago, the Obama administration thought that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was just focused on regional attacks — until they succeeded in penetrating our defenses and nearly blowing up a plane over Detroit.
AQI may have similar ambitions. They just targeted the US embassy in Jordan. How long until they target us here at home?