John Avlon for The Daily Beast: Former FBI Agent Ali Soufan on Bin Laden’s Death, War on Terror

September 11th, 2012

The Daily Beast
By John Avlon
September 11, 2012





Terrorism is always one bad day away from being issue No. 1 and on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it can be easy to forget that the terrorist’s war on us hasn’t stopped.

The good news is that we have made measurable progress in this fight—not only with the elimination of bin Laden, but also with the more than 45 attempted jihadist plots foiled in the last 10 years.

The Obama administration’s strategic decision to intensely focus on the destruction of al Qaeda has proven especially effective to date, providing a useful contrast to the more unilateral, boots-on-the-ground approach of the Bush administration. This should inform our domestic debates.

And so on this anniversary, I spoke to Ali Soufan, the former FBI agent, security consultant, and author of the award-winning Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al Qaeda to get his take on the Obama counterterror doctrine. How would he sum it up in a sentence?

“Total elimination of al Qaeda.” Soufan said. “They are hitting leaders of al Qaeda, and anyone who is known to be plotting against the United States. But at the same time they are trying to stop all the incubating factors that help terrorist recruitment, funding, P.R. and so forth. They are hitting them on different levels. A lot of people see the success of the drones … but the global partnerships that have been created have been effective—and that includes law enforcement, diplomacy, economic aid, educational programs, and definitely boots on the ground when needed, i.e., killing Osama bin Laden.  So I think it’s more comprehensive in nature.”

“We joke sometimes that Obama does a lot of the same tactics as George Bush, but he keeps his mouth shut,” Soufan says. “The Bush administration’s war on terror wasn’t actually working because most of our allies around the world—including England, Germany, other European countries, and the Muslim world—did not have the same concept of the war on terror. So, it makes it difficult when you have a strategy that your partners are not buying into. No. 2, it was wrongfully viewed in the Muslim world as a war on Islam,” said Soufan.

Soufan clarified that he doesn’t “want to blame everything on the Bush administration. I think you have to put yourself in their shoes at the time. But the two things I disagree with the Bush administration on, the invasion of Iraq and EITs (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques), because it just created a lot of problems to our reputation around the world.”

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