Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton says that Al-Qaida is “stronger now than it was in 2001.”
The Republican congressman, who served in the 101st airborne in Baghdad during 2006, told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday that the threat of Islamic terrorism remains very real and that budget cuts are endangering the U.S. military’s effectiveness.
While the military constitutes one-fifth of the federal budget, Cotton said, it is receiving one-third of the government’s sequester-related spending cuts. The congressman also praised the efforts of the NSA and other intelligence gathering programs, citing them as necessary, constitutional, and the recipients of undue criticism.
Terrorism expert Katherine Zimmerman also spoke at the event and claimed that the international Al-Qaida network is stronger now than it has ever been. Factions of Al-Qaida can now be found across the world, and they have the ability to work in tandem with each other.
“They are willing to share resources across the globe in a way that we didn’t see in the 1990s,” said Zimmerman. “That’s what is making it much more strong today.”
“The capability of Al-Qaida to conduct an act like 9/11 isn’t really gone. It just hasn’t happened yet.”
Zimmerman described the current Al-Qaida as “adaptive…complex, and it is much more resilient than it was before.”
“The current American strategy to counter Al-Qaida will fail because it is not designed to defeat the network as it has evolved today,” she said.