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The official who heads the Justice Department’s anti-terror effort, said the goal of the U.S. and Allied air campaign in Syria is to keep Islamist groups like ISIS and Khorasan from bringing any terror plots to fruition.
“In order to disrupt them, one lesson that we’ve learned over the years is that you can’t give them the space and time to plot and plan without applying pressure to disrupt them and that’s what we’ve done,” said John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security.
Carlin described Khorasan, previously the least publicly visible group, as a collection of veteran al Qaeda members with an interest in attacking Western targets. “They’re a group of seasoned al Qaeda operatives from the Afghan-Pakistan region and elsewhere in the Middle East who look to take advantage of the conflict in Syria to find ungoverned space where they can plot and plan to conduct external attacks against Americans and others.”
He said al Qaeda and other groups have maintained their desire to conduct another “spectacular” attack against the U.S. or its allies, and are still interested in aviation targets. President Obama had cited the threat of attack as a reason for the bombing campaign.
Radical Islamists are making increasingly sophisticated use of communications technology, he said, including the packaging of “slick propaganda and messaging targeted at Western and U.S. audiences.” He said that the Obama administration and its international partners have increased their focus on counter messaging.
“This is a group whose ideology is one of slaughter,” he said, “and we need to get that message out.”