Islamic terrorism a central topic of remarks to Congress
Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz, Feb. 28, 2017:
President Donald Trump will outline plans for stepped-up operations against Islamic terrorism in his speech to Congress tonight, and is expected to disclose newly obtained intelligence gathered during a recent commando raid in Yemen.
Trump administration national security officials said the new information, which was not revealed prior to the speech, was discussed during a Tuesday meeting between Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the White House.
The officials cautioned that as of Tuesday afternoon the final speech containing the new intelligence was still being worked on.
The White House and Pentagon are pushing back against what officials said are inaccurate news reports claiming the Yemen raid did not produce very valuable intelligence.
The Jan. 29 commando raid in Yakla village in central Yemen targeted a group of terrorists belonging to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the al Qaeda branch that has been linked to several terrorist attacks in the United States, including the 2015 San Bernardino and 2016 Orlando attacks. Fourteen people were killed in the San Bernardino shootings, and 49 people were shot at a night club in Orlando.
In both attacks, the terrorists who carried out the shootings had been inspired by Anwar al Awlaki, an American-born al Qaeda terrorist who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011 in Yemen but whose English-language lectures on jihad are available on the Internet.
U.S. Navy SEAL Ryan Owens was killed and six others wounded in the Yemen raid. Unconfirmed reports from Yemen said 25 civilians also were killed in the commando raid, including the daughter of Awlaki.
Officials said the covert military operation produced a large volume of valuable intelligence information on the group and its activities.
“The raid did achieve its objectives even if it did so at a significant cost,” said one official familiar with details of the raid. “And it did produce a lot of intelligence—terabytes of information and multiple devices along with information on hundreds of people.”
The official said the raid was likely the “most significant AQAP haul in recent years.” AQAP is the acronym for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The massive amount of information from the raid is still under review by intelligence officials.
The official said an NBC News report from Monday asserting the Yemen raid produced no significant intelligence was wrong.
NBC quoted “multiple senior officials” as saying they were unaware of valuable intelligence taken from the raid.
A second official said Trump will speak forcefully in his speech on the need to defeat what he calls “radical Islamic terrorism.” There is no plan for the president to back off on use of the term, this official said.
News reports published this week stated that the new White House national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, has sought to play down use of the term radical Islamic terrorism.
The second official said Trump remains firmly committed to using the term, an issue Trump raised extensively during the 2016 presidential campaign.
According to White House officials, Trump in his speech to a joint session of Congress will seek to assure lawmakers about his administration’s plans on tax reform, federal deregulation, infrastructure repair, and military spending.
The president, who is expected to read his speech on a teleprompter rather than deliver it in his usual impromptu speaking style, also is expected to make some gestures aimed at unifying a politically divided country.
Trump is proposing a $54 billion increase in defense spending offset by similar cuts in foreign aid and other federal spending.