Baffling Opposition to Strikes on Al-Shabab Terrorists Ignores the Facts
‘Last week some of our colleagues expressed disapproval of US strikes against al-Shabab terrorists in Somalia. I find their views difficult to understand… These hard-core extremists pose a serious threat to American national security. They seek to attack our interests around the world.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding terrorism:
“Last week some of our colleagues expressed disapproval of US strikes against al-Shabab terrorists in Somalia. I find their views difficult to understand.
“Al-Shabab poses a significant threat to US interests. But there’s no need to take my word for it.
“Late in 2019, the leader of al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group based in Somalia, said, quote, ‘Our biggest target today is the Americans… The only reason we have exerted all this effort and undertaken all this preparation today is to attack the American troops.’ End quote.
“In the assessment of the Commander of U.S. Africa Command, General Stephen Townsend, that’s coming from, quote, ‘the largest, wealthiest, and most violent Al-Qaeda-associated group in the world’ and ‘the primary African [violent extremist organization] threat to American interests.’ End quote.
“This is not a new threat. Al-Shabab was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2008. Its leaders declared allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2012, a year before their attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya that killed 67 people.
“The Obama Administration designated the group as an al-Qaeda associated force in 2016. That made it subject to the 2001 AUMF.
“At the time, it was a difficult but telling acknowledgement that the al-Qaeda terrorist threat was growing. The raid that killed Bin Laden had clearly not ended the threat his terrorists posed to the United States.
“As a result of its declared and demonstrated allegiance to al-Qaeda, al-Shabab is clearly subject to the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. No question.
“President Obama knew it. General Townsend knows it.
“Al-Shabab themselves tell us they want Americans dead. What more do these new skeptics need?
“If our colleagues do not want the U.S. military to conduct strikes against al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for killing Americans and threatening our interests, I’d be interested to hear how they propose we defend against these threats.
“By the way, with the Administration’s rushed withdrawal from Afghanistan, there are well-founded concerns that Al-Qaeda may come roaring back in that country.
“So – which al-Qaeda affiliate should we stop pressuring? Al-Shabab? AQAP? ISIS? Should we stop hunting for Ayman al Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda?
“Administrations of both parties have identified and supported local partners who share an interest in combatting terrorists.
“By and large, this approach has succeeded in keeping pressure on the terrorists while keeping more Americans out of harm’s way.
“But despite the best efforts of local partners to keep the terrorists at bay, and the best efforts of U.S. diplomats to broker peace, some terrorists do require direct action by the U.S. military to be stopped.
“These hard-core extremists pose a serious threat to American national security. They seek to attack our interests around the world.
“Including our homeland, if we let them.
“The threat they pose will not recede if we lose focus. In fact, the opposite is the case.
“So I hope the Commander-in-Chief will exercise the authorities the Congress has provided him and the tools Congress has funded to keep America safe against terrorists who continue to target our homeland and our interests abroad.”