July 27th, 2012
06:18 PM ET

U.S. keeping an eye on Syria's weapons, al Qaeda's presence

By Suzanne Kelly, reporting from Aspen, Colorado

U.S. officials continue to closely monitor the situation in Syria with an eye toward the status of the country's biological and chemical weapons, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told Security Clearance.

U.S. officials believe the Syrian regime still has control of the country's chemical and biological weapons, but it's a situation that officials are continuing to watch closely in an effort to make sure that the weapons don't fall into the wrong hands, as was the case with the fall of the Libyan regime last year, said Olsen during an interview on the sidelines of the Aspen Security Forum, in Aspen, Colorado,

"We are still looking in Libya at where those weapons may be, and there are concerns that weapons in Libya have fallen into the hands of groups like al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb. As of right now with respect to Syria, we do think the government has control of the weapons," Olsen said Thursday.

U.S. officials are trying to keep tabs on al Qaeda's presence among opposition groups in Syria, and are focused on whether members of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) are flowing across the border in any significant numbers.

Also from Aspen: U.S. hasn’t won the trust of Syrian rebels

U.S. government sources have previously said that they estimate a small al Qaeda force is in Iraq, numbering around 500.
"I don't want to put a number on it and I'm not going to," Olsen said. "But I do think it's an area we are very focused on and paying attention to understand whether or not individuals from al Qaeda in Iraq are present in Syria."

Olsen said the U.S. intelligence is working "every angle" but admits there are still "gaps" in the understanding of what's going on inside Syria.

"So the entire intelligence community in the U.S. is focused on Syria, getting the collection that we can analyze that information, but there are some gaps and we are working hard to fill those gaps."

Read all our coverage of the 2012 Aspen Security Forum

CNN's Security Clearance has reported previously the United States has utilized satellites and intercepted communications as part of the effort. In addition, the U.S. intelligence community has sent personnel to neighboring countries to talk to opposition groups to try to determine who the United States might be able to work with, a senior U.S. official told CNN's Barbara Starr.

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Joseph B. Malki

    I am curious how the State Department is going to allow US Citizens to sell weapons to Al-Qaida via SFA. Check out this strange article. Wondering if American-Orthodox Christian who might be more pro-Assad would be able to supply the anti- Al Qaida Assad regieme weopons – just to be fair. I mean if Obama is cool with giving weapons to the 9-11 attacker – can patriotic Americans support the pro-government opposition. "The Obama administration has been quietly aiding the rebels – clearing the way for U.S. residents to buy them weapons – in hopes that the uprising will bring down the Syrian regime. U.S. and UN diplomatic efforts have failed in ending the bloody civil war that is now in its second year." http://www.military.com/daily-news/2012/08/09/al-qaida-joins-rebels-in-battle-for-eastern-syria.html?comp=7000023435700&rank=1

    August 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Reply
  2. Jiri bank ski

    Religion is the downfall of planet earth. My god is better than your god so I will kill you and
    Your family to prove it. What a bunch of crap. There is no and never has been god get over it.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  3. Uthraney

    CNN is al queda ...they both want the alawite sect murderd for some strange reason

    July 29, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Reply
  4. brother in america

    AMERICA KEEPING A EYE ON SYRIA WHILE SUPPORTING TERRORIST. AMERICA STOP LYING SOON WE WILL HEAR THERES ONLY 500 TO 1000 AL-QAEDA AND OTHER GROUPS IN SYRIA.WHICH IS A LIE AMERICA,ISREAL AND THE U.N. KNOWS SYRIAS OPPOSITION IS ALL TERRORIST. AMERICA IS SUPPORTING THE TERRORIST (AMERICA CALLS THEM REBELS) TO DESTABILIZE SYRIA. ISREAL IS THE ONLY ONE TELLING THE TRUTH IN THIS TRAGEDY. THEY KNOW THE REBELS ARENT REBELS BUT TERRORIST. AND THEY MUST DESTROY SYRIA WITH ALL THEIR POWER IF THE TERRORIST ( SORRY AMERICA) REBELS EVEN GET CLOSE TO VICTORY

    July 29, 2012 at 1:03 am | Reply
    • speaktruth

      You aren't American. You are probably an Alawite in Syria who is trying desperately to do something thinking posting these comments are changing peoples minds. Truth is we are all laughing at you here in America. You are so scared your regime is going to fall since Assad killed thousands of innocent civilians the backlash is unfortunatley going to fall upon the Alawite sect, so there rich luxurious style of living is now going turning into hell forever for what happened.

      July 30, 2012 at 2:17 am | Reply
      • speaktruth

        Have fun being BRAINWASHED

        July 30, 2012 at 2:17 am |
      • brother in america

        sorry i am more american than any white in america. i am a product of slavery and i have native american blood. i should post a picture of my grandmother who everyone who seen her say she is the darkest indian they ever seen. therefore parts of my blood been circulating in america before whites came out of the caves. so if you think being a uneducated idiot makes you american more power to you. but when you open your mouth or post a comment we all see what kind of american you are.

        July 30, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  5. Mikey Kalish

    Wonder if USA is also an eye on these terror groups in India who have a long reach!!!

    TERRORIST GROUPS IN INDIA
    • RASHTRIYA SWAYAM SEWAK SHANG (R.S.S.)
    • VISHWA HINDU PARISHAD
    • HINDU MUNNANI
    • ARYA SAMAJ
    • SHIV SENA
    • BHARATIYA JANATA PARISHAD
    • SANT SAMITI
    • HINDU MAHASABHA
    • BAAJRANG DAL

    July 28, 2012 at 11:43 am | Reply
  6. NN

    Okay, great, so Libyan chemical and biological WMDs are on the loose with al Qeada. Who would have thought terrorists would make a beeline to the WMDs....

    July 27, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Reply
    • OffTheWorldPolitics

      They are chemical weapons, who do you think has more gas masks? If terrorists use those they are gonna be in a world of hurt...

      July 28, 2012 at 10:09 am | Reply
    • speaktruth

      Can you PLEASE explain to me how you got that "the weapons are on the loose" from this article? Trying to spread propaganda? Were too smart here in America buddy. Our buddies the navy seals and delta force are very close by waiting to kill anyone who tries anything stupid. Hahaha good luck trying to get past those guys.

      July 30, 2012 at 2:21 am | Reply
  7. OffTheWorldPolitics

    So this is what happened to all the industrial waste from testing cosmetic products.

    July 27, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Reply

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