Conservative media figures are accusing the Obama administration of “inventing” the Khorasan group following U.S. air strikes on the terror cell, claiming President Obama is deploying “propaganda” tools to hide the group's connection to al Qaeda. In reality, the intelligence community has been monitoring the Khorasan group for some time, and Obama himself has publicly acknowledged its ties to al Qaeda.
U.S. Targeted Khorasan Group With Air Strikes In Syria
U.S. Launched Airstrikes Against Khorasan Group In Syria. On September 23, U.S. officials announced that they had begun a campaign to attack the Islamic State and the Khorasan Group, a terrorist cell affiliated with al-Qaeda and located within Syria. From The Washington Post:
The United States is now attacking two sets of enemies in the region: the Islamic State, a growing movement of jihadists seeking to create its own country in the Middle East, and the Khorasan group, a smaller network affiliated with al-Qaeda that officials say is plotting against Europe and the United States.
The first wave of strikes, which took place on what was late Monday in Washington, primarily consisted of dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched by U.S. warships against eight Khorasan group targets in northwestern Syria, near Aleppo. Military officials said they attacked Khorasan training camps, a munitions production center, a communications building and other sites.
[Director of Operations for the Joint Staff at the Pentagon] Mayville justified the blitz by citing U.S. intelligence reports showing the Khorasan group “was in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks against Western targets and potentially the U.S. homeland.” [The Washington Post, 9/23/14]
Conservative Media: Obama Administration “Invented” Khorasan Group As “Propaganda” To Hide Al Qaeda Roots
National Review Online: “The Khorosan Group Does Not Exist.” In a September 27 post for National Review Online, Andrew McCarthy claimed that the Khorasan terrorist group was merely a “fictitious name the Obama administration invented to deceive us”:
There is a reason that no one had heard of such a group until a nanosecond ago, when the “Khorosan Group” suddenly went from anonymity to the “imminent threat” that became the rationale for an emergency air war there was supposedly no time to ask Congress to authorize.
You haven't heard of the Khorosan Group because there isn't one. It is a name the administration came up with, calculating that Khorosan -- the -Iranian-Afghan border region -- had sufficient connection to jihadist lore that no one would call the president on it.
The “Khorosan Group” is al-Qaeda. It is simply a faction within the global terror network's Syrian franchise, “Jabhat al-Nusra.” Its leader, Mushin al-Fadhli (believed to have been killed in this week's U.S.-led air strikes), was an intimate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the emir of al-Qaeda who dispatched him to the jihad in Syria. Except that if you listen to administration officials long enough, you come away thinking that Zawahiri is not really al-Qaeda, either. Instead, he's something the administration is at pains to call “core al-Qaeda.” [National Review Online, 9/27/14]
Laura Ingraham: The Khorasan Group Is “Propaganda,” "Right Out Of The Old Soviet Union." During the September 29 edition of Laura Ingraham's radio show, the ABC and Fox News contributor cited the NRO piece as evidence that the term “Khorasan group” is just “propaganda” the government is “sending out to the sheeple.” Ingraham claimed, “This is something right out of the old Soviet Union.” [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 9/29/14]
Rush Limbaugh: “There Is No Khorasan Group.” Administration “Made It Up” To Avoid Admitting It's Al Qaeda. During the September 29 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh used the NRO article as confirmation of his prior assertion that the Khorasan group “was just al Qaeda.” Limbaugh asserted that the Obama administration had invented the name Khorasan, saying, “They just made it up”:
LIMBAUGH: I instinctively figured this out last Wednesday, last Tuesday or Wednesday. The Khorasan -- the Khorasan, by the way, is a region that incorporates borders of Afghanistan and Syria, and I believe Iraq -- but they just made it up. There is no Khorasan group. It's al Qaeda, and Obama didn't wipe them out. He never came close to wiping them out. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/29/14]
But The Intelligence Community And Congress Have Long Known Of Khorasan Group Threat
AP: Director Of National Intelligence Referenced Khorasan Group Threat In A January Senate Hearing. According to a September 13 article from the Associated Press, the Khorasan group threat is a matter of “highly classified intelligence,” and referenced -- not by name -- by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, before the Senate in January:
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, first disclosed during a Senate hearing in January that a group of core al-Qaida militants from Afghanistan and Pakistan was plotting attacks against the West in Syria.
But the group's name, Khorasan, or its links to al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate, which is considered the most dangerous terrorist threat to the U.S., have not previously been disclosed.
Khorasan refers to a province under the Islamic caliphate, or religious empire, of old that included parts of Afghanistan.
Many U.S. officials interviewed for this story would not be quoted by name talking about what they said was highly classified intelligence. Some lawmakers who have been briefed on the Khorasan group threat were willing to discuss it in general terms. One member of Congress who declined to be identified in order to discuss intelligence matters used the group's name in conversations with a reporter. [Associated Press, 9/13/14]
Director Of Operations For The Joint Chiefs Of Staff: “We've Been Watching This Group Closely For Some Time.” The Los Angeles Times reported on September 23, the military has been monitoring the Khorasan group “for some time,” according to the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
“We've been watching this group closely for some time, and we believe the Khorasan Group was nearing the execution phase of an attack either in Europe or the homeland,” Lt. Gen. William Mayville, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a news briefing Tuesday. [Los Angeles Times, 9/23/14]
Rep. Adam Schiff : Intel Committee Has “Long Been Aware Of, And Concerned With, Threat” Posed By Khorasan. Following air strikes on the Khorasan group, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a senior member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released a statement:
The attack on the Khorasan group was also significant. On the Intelligence Committee we have long been aware of, and concerned with, the threat posed by this amalgam of core Al Qaeda from Afghanistan and Pakistan, the premier bomb-makers of AQAP, and abundant foreign recruits who can easily travel abroad to carry out attacks against Europe and United States. The Khorasan group and AQAP continue to be the most proximate threat to our nation. [Rep. Schiff Statement on U.S. Military Strikes Against ISIL and Khorasan Group in Syria, 9/23/14]
And The White House Has Even Acknowledged That Khorasan Group Is An Al Qaeda Affiliate
President Obama Referred To Khorasan Group As “Seasoned Al Qaeda Operatives In Syria.” In his September 23 statement on airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State and Khorasan Group, Obama described the group as “seasoned al Qaeda operatives”:
OBAMA: Last night, we also took strikes to disrupt plotting against the United States and our allies by seasoned al Qaeda operatives in Syria who are known as the Khorasan Group. And once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people. [WhiteHouse.gov, 9/23/14]
National Security Advisor: Khorasan Group Is A “Metastasized” Al Qaeda Cell. On the September 24 edition of NBC's Today Show, National Security Advisor Susan Rice described the Khorasan group's affiliation with al Qaeda:
RICE: We have been focused for many years, as you know, on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- what we call al Qaeda core. And that element of al Qaeda, which is the one that hatched the 9/11 plot and executed it, has been substantially degraded and doesn't at this stage pose nearly the same type of threat that it used to. What has happened, though, over years, is that al Qaeda has metastasized -- imagine a cancer that had an original tumor. Now elements of the cells of that tumor have moved to places like the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen, parts of Africa, Somalia, and what we call the Sahel region, Mali. And now also to Syria. So we are having to deal with each of these cells. As you've seen, we've taken action in Yemen, we've taken action in Somalia, and now we're taking action, as necessary, in Syria. [NBC, Today Show, 9/24/14]