REP. DESJARLAIS, HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE EXPLORE EVOLVING AL QAEDA THREAT, COUNTERTERRORISM STRATEGIES
WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a House Armed Services Committee (HASC) hearing today, terrorism experts described the enduring threat of al Qaeda and the Islamist organization’s desire for large-scale attacks on the United States.
“They have never moved away from their intention to conduct massive attacks in the United States – both al Qaeda and ISIS. It’s in their DNA. If they could do it tomorrow, they would organize a complex and sophisticated attack,” Ambassador Michael Sheehan told Congressman Scott DesJarlais, M.D., and more members. “The reason they haven’t is they can’t,” he said, crediting domestic law enforcement and the military with protecting the country since 9/11.
However, he and other witnesses warned al Qaeda and ISIS have gained strength, recruits, and would likely join forces in the future. The U.S. must forge stronger partnerships with international partners, support their armies in an advisory capacity, and rely on air power and special forces to destroy terrorist operations, they said.
“Contrary to the previous president’s claims, al Qaeda is alive and well, constantly probing our country’s defenses for weakness,” said Rep. DesJarlais (TN-04). “The group has even become known as the ‘moderate extremists’ of radical Islam but must never gain the capability to attack our country again, as it did on 9/11.”
Brian Jenkins of the RAND Corporation and Professor Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies emphasized operational over ideological victories. “Our principal concern should be ensuring individuals do not have the physical capabilities to implement their vision for the world,” said the RAND expert.
Instead, the U.S. must prevent weapons stockpiles, especially weapons of mass destruction, from falling into terrorists’ hands. Professor Hoffman listed border enforcement as another important security layer. He also emphasized denying terrorists operational tools to broadcast their message, rather than developing “counter-messaging.”
“We need to prevent the strategic threat and minimize lone wolves,” said Ambassador Sheehan, a former at-large ambassador for the State Department, who described larger threats in Eastern Europe and East Asia. On the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. DesJarlais is working to provide U.S. forces with the training and equipment they need to combat numerous global threats.
He serves on the Readiness Subcommittee, as well as the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, overseeing troop preparedness and advanced weapons programs, and has voted in Congress to improve border enforcement and visa screening, among other measures to block terrorists from entry into the United States.