A top foreign correspondent at the New York Times said Friday that the Obama administration deliberately downplayed al Qaeda’s strength in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, reported by the Weekly Standard.
“The overall narrative that I think was being pushed to the press, and if you look back at the editorials that were done when that trove came out, was an image of bin Laden isolated, he had lost control of this group,” Rukmini Callimachi said during an event at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, referring to the 17 hand-picked documents released by the Obama administration in May of 2012.
Callimachi’s triggered the following question from Kim Dozier, a former top correspondent for the Associated Press and CBS, and current executive editor of the Cipher Brief: “Do you think that was something that was kept from the public’s view because it revealed that there had to be reams of communication going back and forth, which means U.S. intelligence, Western intelligence, was missing this?”
“Think back to when bin Laden was killed. It was 2011, it was right before a major campaign season. I don’t want to underplay the role that the killing of Osama bin Laden had,” said Callimachi. “But I think that was theorized into something much bigger.”
“The head of the organization has been killed, and now—these are literally quotes that I would get: the organization has been ‘decimated,’ the organization is in ‘disarray,’ the organization is ‘on the run,’” she continued. “At the same time that we were preparing to pull out troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, I think that it was important to portray this as a problem that no longer existed.”
In November, the Trump administration released roughly 470,000 files that were captured in the Abbottabad raid. The Obama administration only released a few hundred, despite one official’s description of the haul as enough to fill a “small college library.”
When Callimachi was covering West Africa in 2011, Obama administration officials and others told her that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which had just taken over the northern half of Mali, “The narrative I would get is that . . . it had opportunistically taken the al Qaeda name in order to have prestige and scare people, and that in fact those people were just criminals,” she said.
“Suddenly, my worldview, which had been informed by officials . . . started to fall apart,” she said.
“In fact, the new trove that has now come out confirms very much what I was seeing in Mali, which is not just real connective tissue, but connective tissue to the point of [these affiliates] being micro managed from Afghanistan and Pakistan,” she said. “Very minor personnel decisions are being decided by the group thousands of miles away.”
Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies have been pushing for the full release of bin Laden documents since 2012. Joscelyn said the administration attached a narrative to those files that al Qaeda was “on the decline” and that “there was no cohesion” among terror groups fighting from West Africa to the Middle East.
I would like to say I’m shocked by this news…but I’m not. The Obama administration was going to do everything in their power to get Obama re-elected. Obama had promised before his first term that he was going to end the war in Afghanistan and have all troops pulled out by the end of his presidency. Everyone quickly realized that it was not a smart plan to pre-emptively let the world know our plans, so they had to result to misleading the public by only releasing documents helpful to the administration, NOT the American people. Shame on you, President Obama.