The threat posed by al Qaeda terrorism around the world continues to increase despite President Barack Obama's recent claim that the central group behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks is on the path to defeat, according to U.S. and foreign counterterrorism officials and private experts.
Obama said in a speech to the National Defense University May 23 that because of the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and most of his top aides, "we are safer."
While terrorist threats still exist, "the core of al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is on the path to defeat," the president said.
However, a U.S. counterterrorism official said the threat posed by al Qaeda is growing. "From Africa to Pakistan, it is spreading systematically," the official said.
The official blamed the Obama administration policy of focusing its counterterrorism efforts almost exclusively on central al Qaeda.
The focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan resulted in a lack of targeted counterterrorism efforts in other locations, the official said. The official added that counterterrorism efforts have been weakened by the administration's policy of dissociating Islam from al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorism. The policy was a key effort of John Brennan, White House counterterrorism chief during the first Obama administration. As CIA director, Brennan has expanded the policy of limiting links between Islam and terrorism at the agency.