WASHINGTON: The United States has done “an incredible job” in going after and systematically dismantling the core Al Qaeda network in Fata, says US President Barack Obama.
“They still pose a threat, but it is much diminished,” he said in a conversation with his troops deployed around the world.
A transcript, released by the US Department of Defence, also quotes Mr Obama as saying that when he ordered American commandos to raid Osama Bin Laden’s residence in 2011, he was only half sure that Al Qaeda leader was hiding in that compound in Abbottabad.
Sharing his threat-perception with the troops, he warned that extremists flushed out of the Pak-Afghan region had spread out to other areas.
“What’s happened with this radical, violent extremism is that it’s metastasised and it’s spread to other areas. Right now, he said, ground zero for those activities was in Syria with the so-called IS.
Mr Obama said the most difficult part of his job was to deal with questions that did not come with enough information to help him decide how to answer them.
“If it’s an easy question it doesn’t get to my desk. The only things that come to my desk are things that somebody else hasn’t been able to solve,” he said.
“And my job is to make a decision based on sometimes imperfect information and you’re working on the percentages.”
Mr Obama said that one such question was whether to raid Bin Laden’s hideout. “When I made the order for us to go in and get Bin Laden at that house in Pakistan, it was probably a 50/50 proposition as to whether that was, in fact, him.”
He acknowledged that the risks of making a wrong decision “obviously were enormous”.
“If I had been making that decision based on wanting to avoid risk and not having somebody talk smack about me, then that might not be a decision that I would have been prepared to make,” he said.
Mr Obama said that despite the progress the US-led alliance had made in Afghanistan, “it’s still critically important that we’ve got thousands of trainers and advisers who are supporting the Afghan military efforts there”. The US combat role in Afghanistan, he said, was over, “but we still have to make sure that they are getting the kind of help and assistance that they need”.