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How to stop al Qaeda in Syria

August 2nd, 2012
05:54 PM ET

By Samuel Burke

In April, former U.S. President Bill Clinton said that the longer violence festers in Syria, the greater the danger is of bad actors stepping in. Now, the Obama administration is concerned with growing reports of al Qaeda, its offshoots and other Jihadists flooding into Syria.

In an interview with Christiane Amanpour Thursday, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Counter Terrorism, Daniel Benjamin, echoed what Bill Clinton said months ago.

“Whenever you have a case of civil strife and instability, as you have in Syria, it makes it extremely attractive to extremists who want to use this opportunity for more chaos and advance their cause,” he said.

Benjamin told Amanpour that these types of individuals are indeed already in Syria, including al Qaeda fighters.

“The number is relatively small now,” Benjamin said. “I would put the numbers in the dozens to a hundred, a hundred plus. We don’t have that much granularity that we can say with any certainty how many there are.”

Benjamin told Amanpour that the easiest way for the fighters to enter Syria is through Iraq, where the border is quite porous, but added that aggressors are coming from a variety of countries.

The Obama administration is now left to figure how to stop more of these fighters from entering Syria. Benjamin says that the U.S. must keep the Syrian opposition groups up to speed and inform them of the threat. He also said the U.S. must work more broadly with partners around the world to hinder terrorist travel, so foreign fighters headed to Syria find it harder and harder to get there.

Kofi Annan’s resignation as envoy to Syria makes it even less likely that a negotiated, political solution will stop the civil war in Syria. Benjamin did not rule out the possibility of China or Russia coming around and agreeing to U.N. resolution. That would put more pressure on Assad, and as Benjamin put it, maybe then he would realize “the writing on the wall and see there’s no future for him in Syria.”

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Just say it....U want to start problems ...not end them

    "No room for him"? sounds like a true terrorist would say that,

    To choose presidents of other countrys through murder when u have nothin to do with it , Is called terrorist Or U could be on ur way to forming another "al queda" group But naming it sumthing else

    August 2, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Reply
    • kuduson

      tell me one country in the world america likes
      tell me one country america has not threatened

      August 3, 2012 at 1:51 am | Reply
      • dbp49

        knuduson....I'll go out on a limb and to both of your questions (as long as were dealing with the "modern" world) I'll give the same answer...Canada.

        August 3, 2012 at 3:26 am |
      • mnz

        Did you ever get passed elementary school? You sound like you need a heavy dose of REAL education!!
        Take a cold shower before you post anything remotely intelligible!!!

        August 3, 2012 at 3:53 am |
    • Yahooy

      Give any countries name with conflict that terrorist are not involve

      August 3, 2012 at 5:08 am | Reply
  2. Black Cape

    so Ignorant, so everyone who is fighting the dictator is Alqaeda now !!! FSA has ten of thousands of men since when Alqaeda built such an army! and why their purpose to take down Bashar the butcher not attacking the US embassy and interests in Syria Jordan or Lebanon!! and if anyone of you educated enough name 3 Alqaeda leaders in Syria so why there is no tape of their work in Syria as they used to do.. this is a real revolution against the oppression do not dare to insult it!! people like don't know anything about Syria History before the uprising and local affairs don't try to be smart!

    August 2, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Reply
  3. Zeitgeist

    Oh, so al Qaeda is in Syria now? Impressive how they always find Al Qaeda. Seems like Al Qaeda really can't hide from CIA. Good work. Seems like USA/NATO are not entertained in Iraq/Afghanistan.
    "I don't lthe playgrounds Iraq & Afghanistan anymore:
    "Ah, No fun, no amusement."
    "How about hitting Syria Fairyland, folks?"
    "Good choice. But hey, we need tickets to go there."
    "No worries, send Al Qaeda first and then we can go as well."
    "Yeahhh, let's goooo !!!"

    August 2, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Reply
  4. bush

    SYRIANS WANT NOTHING from the United States...its the United States who wants something from Syria...all this pressure is all about what the US wants. The Terrorist in Syria have been the same from the start...Its been Alqaeda and others like them...Assad has rules over Syria for 15 yrs and NOT ONCE....CAN I REPEAT ONCE has he trouble the US or Israel. Even Israel doesn't want ASSAD gone because you have NO idea what will come after him. We need to look at this from all sides...Why is NOBODY asking the Syrian people what they want. Because the Opposition is NOT the Syrian people...They are fighters brought in from Turkey, Qatar,And Saudi Arabia. You guys need to think things thru before you comment on here. Because Syria is a piece of a puzzle that needs to be removed in order to carry out a "New World" order that was put iin place years ago...This is what this is all about! BTW....Egypt is a mess...Libya...Yeah its a mess too...I think we need to see who is really causing chaos in the region..I know who it is...DO you...Will you admit it?

    August 2, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Reply
    • King kigs

      Nice coment u guy.they should know

      August 3, 2012 at 12:25 am | Reply
  5. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    While everyone is clamoring to get Al-Assad out, nobody seems to think about who will replace him!

    Also, the minority Christians are solidly against the rebel struggle against their Secular leader Al-Assad, just the way they were with the so-called Arab Spring in other countries of the region. No wonder the Coptic Christians of Egypt even refused to meet with Hillary Clinton during her recent Cairo visit.

    America has erred big time in its temptation to get rid of these dictatorial regimes with the hope of bringing democracy, which the Muslim world largely does not understand. As a result everyone of these N.African nations incl. Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia have an Islamist govt.

    It's a well known fact that Al-Qaeda and other Islamic radicals are solidly behind the rebels. If we look at the backers of the "so-called" Arab Spring they have all been led by the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and other radicals, with VOCIFEROUS support from rabid anti-Semite/Islamic supporters within/outside the Obama admin. incl. CNN's Mr.Fareed Zakaria, Rashad Hussain, Imam Rauf, Huma Abeid, Dean Obeidallah and many many more.

    It's essential that we do not overlook these internal/external threats that NOT only undermine US interests in the ME but also our own safety & security at home.

    If reports of Mr.Zakaria becoming the next US. Sec. of State in a 2nd Obama administration are true, then , it's only a matter of time before US foreign policy to the Muslim world aligns itself totally with that of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas & Hezbollah which is already the case with the so-called Arab Spring where the US and Al-Qaeda are on the same side!

    August 2, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Reply
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  7. Petrovich

    Amanpour is pure jew, lier and propaganda machine. Amanpour knows the truth, the reality in syria, that almost all rebels are foreign, and that al qaida are working with the opposition. I dont understand why Amanpour in this stage is duscussing what the FSA would probably do with al qaida, driving them out of the country. How in hell can you at this stage make such an assumption on live tv, and how can u legitimate the FSA's horrific acts in syria today? The whole world is lying and all west media is nothing but propaganda machines!

    August 3, 2012 at 3:03 am | Reply
  8. dbp49

    It would seem the time to deal with the al Qaeda terrorists would be right now, before their numbers have a chance to grow, or get dug in. The problem I see is exactly how do you do that without entering the Syrian countryside, which would, of course, be an unacceptable "provocation". Once again, damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:22 am | Reply
  9. welloiled

    Oh my, al Qaeda are now in Syria. I suspect the biggest training ground for them is in the USA. They seem to know what they look like. But you (the West) reap as you sow. As it is, Syria is currently one big training ground for terrorists. You can't do better than to fire real rounds at real people to gain real experience. Looks better on a CV. Just ask the Israeli army tank commanders for an opinion. Wonder what country we'll mess up next.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:51 am | Reply
  10. okezie isaac

    The truth is that Assad is being treated as a gentle man. He does not deserve to be so treated. We all see he is worse than Gadaffi. I suggest something like operation desert Storm. Though costly, but cheaper than human lives. The way he is headed, he may become the present day Nebuchadnezzar. CHECK HIM NOW!

    August 3, 2012 at 4:05 am | Reply
  11. Zyxtyr

    The whole world knows that Bashar Al Assad is a dictator. We all agree that people should be elect their own leaders and be forced to survive under someone who inherited the right to rule a country from his father. However, such change must come from within. It is more than obvious to the people around the world that several governments are working very hard to destabilise Syria so these governments can further their short term interests. The price the middle east has paid in the last 3-4 decades for such meddling in their affairs must amount to must grievous violation and abuse of common human life that mankind has ever seen.

    Whats even worse is that these so called democracy friendly governments will resort to means far worse than the dictators ever did, and they have no clue what lies ahead once they topple them. Libya, Iraq, Syria and Egypt will never be the same again. They will ferment unrest, sectarian hatred and brutal violence, all funded and supported by our democratic governments leading to chaos and anarchy that breeds terrorism.

    Leave them alone!!

    August 3, 2012 at 4:07 am | Reply
  12. Paul Martin Welsh expat foreign correspondent

    Dream on....where have they EVER been stopped.....just like the energiser bunny they keep going...and going...and going !

    August 3, 2012 at 5:30 am | Reply
  13. RealityCheck

    Like most of west countries has "liberals" and "conservatives"
    Arab countries has two main forces: DICTATORS (Kings, Military, rigged elections leaders etc) and ISLAMIC paramilitary organizations.

    Only BLIND can not see that – look at ME map, check type of government.

    Thus sad reality is – if you wish DICTATORS OUT Al-Quaeda (or other name with same idea) will be IN.

    August 3, 2012 at 6:00 am | Reply
  14. jtbv

    According to German intelligence the number of Al Qaeda fighters is not relatively small at all but they are actually all over Syria.
    On top of that as much as the US sees all Qaeda as a threat they continue to arm the rebels.. I wonder what the blowback of the weapons ending up in extremist hands is going to be in the long run.
    When the US armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan who were fighting against the Russians during the Cold War this really came back to haunt them when they invaded Afghanistan themselves in 2001.

    August 3, 2012 at 6:01 am | Reply
  15. EyesWideShut

    US knows exactly what it's doing since we just did the same MO in Libya. There were reports that al qaeda was present going back to March 2011, but US ignored it. Reports of massacres being carried out by al qaeda in Libya were ignored. Amnesty Int'l verified that such massacres had took place. But that only resulted in NATO bombing Libya back to the stone age. Now same thing happening in Syria. Rebels/al qaeda being armed by the usual suspects (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, US, Israel), and talk of US becoming more involved in to overthrow Assad, just like Libya. We US ever learn??

    August 3, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  16. Matt

    The refugees are billeted until 2015/2016. So it possible that the destruction of the regime occurs bring it to breaking point, then the FSA pull back in 2013. So it appear Assad has regained control, but it is illusion, the FSA has pulled back. Then the regime backers will have to fund Syria for two years and the regime final collapses by itself or the FSA launch a final push. The regime still has to maintain the support of those that have not turned against it yet and that is linked to security and economics. That can save the friends of Syria significant fiscal outlay.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Reply
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