US official signals end to war against al Qaeda

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A top Pentagon lawyer said the United States (US) must prepare for a time when it was no longer at war with al Qaeda and when sweeping legal powers enacted following the 9/11 attacks came to an end.
The address by Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson marked the first time a senior US official publicly raised the possibility of an end to the war on terror, launched by former president George W Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
With the US military campaign against al Qaeda now entering its 12th year, “we must also ask ourselves: how this conflict will end?” Johnson said on Thursday in remarks delivered at the Oxford Union in Britain.
The terror network, which is under steady pressure, will eventually become so weak that it would no longer make sense to maintain a legal framework for all-out war, Johnson said, according to a text released by the Pentagon. “I do believe that on the present course, there will come a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the US, such that al Qaeda as we know it, the organisation that our Congress authorised the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed,” he said. It would then fall to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to go after al Qaeda’s remnants, said Johnson, a long time political ally of President Barack Obama. “At that point, we must be able to say to ourselves that our efforts should no longer be considered an armed conflict against al Qaeda and its associated forces,” he said.
Instead, the government would pursue “a counterterrorism effort against individuals who are the scattered remnants of al Qaeda, or are parts of groups unaffiliated with al Qaeda, for which the law enforcement and intelligence resources of our government are principally responsible, in cooperation with the international community-with our military assets available in reserve to address continuing and imminent terrorist threats”. The war against al Qaeda has been cited to justify covert intelligence operations and unilateral military action around the world against suspected militants, including a major drone bombing campaign in Pakistan and the indefinite detention of alleged al Qaeda members at a US-run prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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