An Al Qaeda Franchise

As the US cuts back on defense spending, Al Qaeda is remaking itself and spreading to more regions of the world, according to ranking Senate Armed Service Committee member Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). “The reality is that Al Qaeda now operates in more countries and more territory than ever before, and poses a greater threat to American interests,” Inhofe said in a Feb. 11 SASC hearing on burgeoning security threats. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn confirmed the organization is indeed “morphing and franchising itself” in Northern and Western Africa, as well as “in other parts of the world.” For example, an Al Qaeda affiliate seized Fallujah, Iraq, and more than 5,000 civilians were killed by terrorists across the country this year, making it the deadliest attack since 2007, noted Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “The strength of the insurgency is now estimated at somewhere between 75,000-to-80,000 on the low end and 110,000-to-115,000 on the high end,” said Clapper. Although Al Qaeda has infiltrated many groups with varying aims and geography, a small group of hardened Afghan veterans, now thought to be fighting in Syria, “have aspirations for [an] external attack in Europe, if not the homeland itself,” said Clapper.