US Response to Rumored Attacks: Preemptive Global Aggression
August 6, 2013
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Barbara Starr / CNN & Carlo Muñoz / The Hill
As speculation continues to fly about the "imminent" threat of a terror attack, apparently centering on al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri ordering an attack by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the US is preparing to strike first -- with an eye toward preemptive strikes on any targets they believed to be involved. Potential targets are spread across two continents, from the Middle East to Africa.
US Special Forces Prepare
'Preemptive Strikes' Over Terror Threat
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(August 5, 2013) -- As speculation continues to fly about the "imminent" threat of a terror attack, apparently centering on al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri ordering an attack by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the US is preparing to strike first.
Having closed embassies across the region and issued a global travel warning over a very specifically timed, but very non-specific plot, US Special Forces are said to be on high alert across AFRICOM and CENTCOM with an eye toward preemptive strikes on any targets they believed to be involved.
That the deployments span two distinct military commands covering the bulk of two continents reflects how little is known about the target, a fact underscored by White House statements saying that while they think the plot "emanates" from the Middle East it may extend well beyond that.
Which is a potentially huge problem about "preemptive" strikes, as they seem as likely as not to hit targets with little to no relation to the current plot, and with speculation that the would-be attackers are already deployed to wherever the target is, they may not actually preempt anything.
The lack of specificity coupled with the apparent scramble to prove that they're doing "something" about it may even encourage the US to hit some potential targets in both theaters of operation just to prove they made an effort, even if those targets aren't related to the current plot. But absent details, such strikes may create even more problems in the long run, and rather than preemptive really amount to instigatory strikes for other incidents to come.
US Special Forces on Alert Overseas to Strike any Potential Al Qaeda Targets
Barbara Starr / CNN
American special forces units overseas have been on alert for the past several days for a mission to attack potential al Qaeda targets if those behind the most recent terror threats against US interests can be identified, a senior Obama administration official told CNN.
The official declined to identify the units or their locations because of the sensitive nature of the information.
The units, along with several others, were put on heightened alert by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week.
The United States closed embassies and consulates across an area of Africa and the Middle East and imposed a global travel alert for Americans following threats against US interests described as serious and credible.
An intercepted message among senior al Qaeda operatives in the last several days raised concerns that led to the closures, CNN has learned.
Three sources said the United States has information that members of the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are in the final stages of planning an unspecified attack.
Report: US Special Forces on Alert to Strike al Qaeda Targets
Carlo Muñoz / The Hill
(August 5, 2013) -- The Pentagon has placed its elite cadre of special operations teams on full alert to launch preemptive attacks against suspected al Qaeda targets across the globe, according to reports.
The American special forces teams have spent the past week waiting for US military and intelligence officials to confirm the whereabouts of the terror cell plotting to attack US diplomatic outposts in the Mideast and North Africa.
Unnamed sources told CNN on Monday that the teams were poised to carry out the preemptive strikes, but declined to comment on where the US forces were located or which potential targets the Pentagon has identified.
Special operations units located in US Central Command and Africa Command, which have traditionally been responsible for operations against al Qaeda and its regional affiliates, are the most likely candidates to carry out these strikes.
Administration officials last Friday ordered the temporary closure of more than 20 diplomatic posts and issued a worldwide travel alert, after government officials said they intercepted al Qaeda chatter that indicated a specific and imminent terror threat.
The State Department announced Sunday that the embassies would remain closed for another week as the terror threat across the region remained high.
The decision to extend the embassy closings came after President Obama met with senior leaders of his national security team on Saturday.
The high-level meeting at the White House was attended by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency Chief Gen. Keith Alexander.
Dempsey and Kerry held a follow-up meeting on Monday.
The closures and travel warning came after US intelligence officials intercepted communications between al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the head of al Qaeda's Yemen faction.
Al-Zawahiri took control of the terrorist organization in 2011, after former leader Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces during a raid on his home in Abottabad, Pakistan, in May of that year.
The intercepted communications reportedly included details of a large-scale terror plot against US and Western targets in Africa and the Mideast.
"This was significant because it was the big guys talking, and talking about very specific timing for an attack or attacks," one American official who had been briefed on the intelligence reports told The New York Times.
The group's Yemeni cell, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is considered one of the terrorist organization's most dangerous and well-funded factions in the world.
The Yemeni group was responsible for three attempted airline bombings targeting the United States over the past several years.
On Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney cautioned that the terror threat could "potentially be beyond" the Mideast.
"I would say that the threat is emanating from and maybe directing towards the Arabian Peninsula, but it is beyond that," Carney said.
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