The Obama administration has scaled back its efforts against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which has allowed the powerful terrorist group to regroup and regain its strength, Rep. Peter King told Newsmax.
"We did have them on the run and we were pushing back, but we really sort of stepped back our efforts, the Obama administration did, and that gave AQAP a chance to recoup, a chance to get its strength back," King told J.D. Hayworth and John Bachman on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV.
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Concerns about AQAP's prominence resurfaced last month after a video showed more than 100 al-Qaida members brazenly gathered in broad daylight in Yemen. Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the No. 2 leader of al-Qaida worldwide and the head of AQAP, was seen in the video posted on jihadist websites.
U.S. drone strikes
reportedly killed dozens of al-Qaida members in Yemen the following week, but concerns persist that the organization is still gathering strength in a country supportive of the United States.
"Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is extremely powerful, they're very sophisticated and they control parts or significant parts of the country," he said. "So even though the government is with us, there is still a strong movement on the ground for AQAP and the government really has a limited area that it does control.
"AQAP also has shown that it's capable of carrying very significant attacks. Now, they've been hurt, they've been hurt badly. We've scored some real hits against them in recent months but having said that, they still are very lethal.
King said one of the reasons for the weakened efforts against AQAP is because President Barack Obama has taken on a pre-9/11 mentality.
"We have to stop this talk about – just a year ago when President Obama says that we were pretty much back in a pre-9/11 setting," the New York Republican said. "It's not true at all, in many ways al-Qaida is more lethal and more dangerous than it was in 9/11."
"He might be in a pre-9/11 mindset, but al-Qaida is in a 2014 attack mindset," he added.
King explained that AQAP may not be able "to carry out the large scale attack of 9/11 itself, but to carry out very, very serious attacks and it's going to be harder for us to stop them."
On 9/11, the New York congressman said, al-Qaida was one group, but "now it's spun off these different franchise operations lead by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula."
The other aspect to the terrorist group that has made it stronger and more dangerous is that it has increased its recruiting efforts "here in the United States" and now, largely because of the internet, "they have this international communication which they didn't have back in 2001 — so I wish the president would stop this talk about a pre-9/11 situation."
The U.S. embassy in Yemen was shut down indefinitely Thursday after terrorists from AQAP tried to abduct two embassy employees
. The employees shot and killed the gunmen, and were able to escape.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers also said "that the tempo of our counterterrorism operations slowed
for a period of time," which he argued Friday lead to the attack.
King said the United States has dropped the ball on Boko Haram, the group responsible for killing hundreds in Nigerian villages and kidnapping more than 200 schoolgirls.
The United States has known of the group for years, and Congress, the FBI, CIA and Justice Department all called for the group to be declared a terror organization. But the State Department, he said, failed to act
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"The significance of that is it gives the Justice Department the opportunity to go after people who fund Boko Haram," he said. "It enables us to use more of our intelligence assets against them. The State Department under Secretary Clinton did not want to. They failed to focus attention on them and they also said it may cut off the opportunity to negotiate with Boko Haram.
"Talk about a pre-9/11 mentality. What in the world ever gave them the idea you can negotiate with someone like Boko Haram."
Clinton's tenure at the State Department also will be placed under a microscope by the select committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi raid that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
King said Democrats, who have balked at participating
in the probe, need to step up "to present their case."
"They have to," he said. "I know that the Republicans that have been selected lead by Trey Gowdy will do an outstanding professional job. The Democrats owe it to themselves and to the country to present their case and if they don't, they're going to look as if they're hiding.... I don't know what they're afraid of they should do it and stop cowering and hiding."
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