Syria is top training ground for al Qaeda, Senate is told
March 6th, 2014
05:28 PM ET

Syria is top training ground for al Qaeda, Senate is told

By Jamie Crawford

High levels of sectarianism, carnage and the overall grinding nature of Syria's civil war continue to make that country a top destination for extremists, a top U.S. official said.

"Syria has become the pre-eminent location for al Qaeda-aligned groups to recruit, to train and to equip what is now a growing number of extremists, some of who seek to conduct external attacks," Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a congressional hearing on Thursday.

"From a terrorism perspective, the most disturbing element is that al Qaeda has declared Syria its most critical front," he said.

Olsen testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee alongside Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Assistant Secretary of Defense Derek Chollet about the crisis in Syria and the ongoing standoff with Russia over the situation in Ukraine.

Foreign fighters attracted to the Syrian battleground "represent a long-term threat to U.S. national security interests," Burns said while likening the environment to an "incubator for extremism" on both sides of the Sunni and Shiite sectarian divide.

And the changing nature and de-centralized shift from large-scale plotting by al Qaeda also remains a cause for concern, the officials said.

"These less sophisticated plots are often more difficult for us to detect and disrupt, and that puts even greater pressure on us to work closely with our partners," Olsen said.

There are also concerns over the travel patterns of foreign fighters to and from Syria, particularly those from western countries that have become a priority for officials across U.S. national security agencies to follow.

"We are working together to gather every single piece of information we can about the identities of these individuals," Olsen said.

With the Syrian conflict nearing the beginning of its fourth year, senators from both parties pushed Burns for clarification on the Obama administration's support for the moderate opposition, and its goal of political transition away from the rule of Bashar al-Assad.

Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey said the administration's policy was not as "robust' as it could be in his view, while the top Republican on the panel, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, criticized the "festering" nature of the situation that allows foreign extremists to proliferate inside Syria.

"It is a disaster of great proportions," Corker said.

"We understand the urgency" of the situation, Burns said while adding the administration is "looking at a range of options" it can take unilaterally and with international allies to bolster support for the moderate opposition in Syria.

Burns added that he believed that 35 percent of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile would be removed from the country next week as part of an international agreement.

But he added the "foot dragging" of the process by the al-Assad regime was "deeply frustrating."

soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. Nicky Stjulian

    This was great! I would like you to clean up all this spam though

    May 12, 2021 at 5:59 am | Reply
  2. Lbsofiple

    do i need prescription for cialis in usa – cialis where can i buy cialis prices in ontario

    May 11, 2021 at 1:34 pm | Reply
  3. April Dinapoli

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a online game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these second life websites and blogs

    May 11, 2021 at 9:22 am | Reply
  4. Anooreext

    composição de viagra asal usul viagra

    May 11, 2021 at 6:37 am | Reply
  5. BbshVelm

    natural viagra foods cheap viagra pills

    May 11, 2021 at 5:43 am | Reply
  6. Rebffiple

    cialis without prescription – where to get free samples of cialis buy brand cialis online usa

    May 10, 2021 at 10:41 pm | Reply
  7. Gtnbclups

    cialis vs. viagra viagra generic name

    May 10, 2021 at 11:33 am | Reply
  8. Lebnreext

    prescription drugs canada diuretics canadian online pharmacies legitimate

    May 8, 2021 at 8:41 pm | Reply
  9. dapoxetine

    buy priligy uk dapoxetine 10 mg

    May 8, 2021 at 6:53 am | Reply
  10. Jebgreext

    Sildalist canadian pharmaceuticals online safe

    May 8, 2021 at 6:07 am | Reply
  11. chloroquine for lupus

    chrloroquine chloroquine natural sources

    May 6, 2021 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  12. Fmrfreext

    cialis for daily use cost – cheap original cialis brand cialis usa

    May 5, 2021 at 6:39 pm | Reply
  13. Lbsofiple

    buy brand cialis genaric cialis

    May 4, 2021 at 3:31 pm | Reply
  14. Anooreext

    pub pour le viagra viagra reviews recreational

    May 4, 2021 at 3:29 am | Reply
  15. BbshVelm

    viagra for sale ebay – how do you spell viagra viagra 100mg price per pill

    May 4, 2021 at 1:33 am | Reply
  16. Rebffiple

    cialis fastest shipping cialis without perscriptions

    May 4, 2021 at 1:02 am | Reply
  17. avanafil

    avana 200 mg avanafil 200

    May 3, 2021 at 6:03 pm | Reply
  18. Gtnbclups

    canadian pharmacy viagra natural alternatives to viagra

    May 3, 2021 at 12:00 pm | Reply
  19. Fbsfreext

    Artane canadian drugstore online

    May 2, 2021 at 5:14 pm | Reply
1 2

Leave a Reply to Belize Charity


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.