POTUS’ view on who counts as Al Qaeda

David Remnick’s recent profile/interview of the President in the New Yorker reveals this telling view of how the Administration perceives the difference between core Al Qaeda and “Al Qaeda wannabes”:

“In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been ‘decimated.’ I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Falluja, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too. ‘The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,’ Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. ‘I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.'”


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About the Author(s)

Harold Hongju Koh

Sterling Professor of International Law, Yale Law School; Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State (2009-13), Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (1998-2001). Member of the editorial board of Just Security.