U.S. unclear on impact of bombing on al Qaida group in Syria

The Associated Press: The U.S. military has hit as many as 17 separate targets connected to a shadowy al-Qaida cell in Syria known as the Khorasan group, U.S. officials say, as part of a little-discussed air campaign aimed at disrupting the group’s capacity to plot attacks against Western aviation.

U.S. intelligence analysts disagree about whether the attacks have significantly diminished the group’s capabilities, according to the officials, showing how difficult it has been to develop a clear picture of what is happening on the ground in Syria.

American officials briefed on the matter agree that the air attacks have forced militants into hiding and made their use of cellphones, email or other modern communications extremely risky. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss classified assessments.

There is some disagreement about how much the airstrikes have undermined the group’s ability to pose an imminent threat, U.S. officials say. Some U.S. officials say the military believes the strikes have lowered the threat, while the CIA and other intelligence agencies emphasize that the group remains as capable as ever of attacking the West.

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2 thoughts on “U.S. unclear on impact of bombing on al Qaida group in Syria

  1. Paul Woodward

    Leaving aside the debatable question about the actual name, “Khorasan group” (merely a designation assigned by intelligence analysts as far as I’m aware), my understanding is that this group is a unit within the al-Nusra Front, but whereas Nusra is (for better or worse) part of the opposition to Assad, Khorasan operates in alignment with Zawahiri.

    Some people probably think the CIA makes this stuff up, but I think this highlights one of the many ironies about the popular perceptions of the national security state: on the one hand everyone’s afraid of its intrusive capabilities and yet at the same time there is wide skepticism about the intelligence it claims it has gathered. Do the intel agencies know too much or too little?

    My opinion — nothing more than that — is that the claims about the Khorasan group are based on strong intelligence. Where there is ample room for justifiable skepticism is when it comes to time-frames and the magnitude of any particular threat. As has been made abundantly clear over the last two decades, terms like “imminent” have been rendered meaningless through their abuse by government officials.

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