The American-born leader of al-Qaida on the Arabian peninsula is "more creative" than Osama bin Laden, and the United States should be trying to "capture or kill him as well," says Pete Hoekstra, former ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Anwar al-Awlaki, the head of the terror group’s franchise based in Yemen, is "focused on attacking the United States,” unlike bin Laden, who in recent years, concentrated more on Afghanistan and "lost focus on targeting the homeland," Hoekstra tells Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview conducted by Newsmax global intelligence analyst Fred Fleitz.
Fleitz, who had served as a senior adviser to Hoekstra on the Intelligence Committee, asked his former boss about homegrown terrorists. "They will continue to be a threat," Hoekstra says. "It appears that al-Awlaki and his writings were the inspiration for lone wolfs" like accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan.
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"Anwar al-Awlaki clearly is focused on attacking the United States. He understands us. He speaks our language. He's an American-born cleric. He's a U.S. citizen.
"He's more creative than the old leadership of al-Qaida . . . we should fear him, and [that’s] why we need to do everything to go after him and either capture or kill him as well," Hoekstra explains.
On Wednesday, the Obama administration released a document formalizing President Barack Obama's approach to fighting terrorism. The threat of radicalized Americans was among the top concerns.
Administration officials say that U.S. efforts to fight terrorism in and around Afghanistan and Pakistan won’t be affected by the president’s decision last week to withdraw tens of thousands of U.S. troops from Afghanistan over the next two years with all forces out by 2014.
Asked about whether bin Laden’s death should be a justification for U.S. troop reductions in Afghanistan, Hoekstra says "it's way too early to tell . . . we'll have to wait and see if the new leadership of al-Qaida is going to be more effective or whether we've lopped the head off of al-Qaida.
"Do [the new leaders] create a different kind of a threat to the United States because they're going to implement new strategies and tactics that bin Laden refused to consider? Al-Qaida could end up stronger. We just don't know.”
Pointing to news reports about Obama's increasing use of drones to target terrorists, Hoekstra says, "in many respects [Obama] is carrying out more aggressively the policies of the previous administration” — the George W. Bush policies that he condemned.
While Obama has tried to close down the Bush-created detention camp for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, it remains open.
The president and Attorney General Eric Holder are not "offering any real alternatives as to where these folks are going to go. They've recognized that the U.S. Congress is not going to let this president put these people into the United States . . . our allies around the world, they don't want any part of these Gitmo folks either."
So going into the 2012 presidential election, Obama is going to continue to "espouse the rhetoric that Gitmo needs to close. That it's the inspiration for radicalization around the world, which we know is not true," says Hoekstra, who adds that nobody will take the detainees because they're dangerous.
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