AEI’s interview with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon is a part of the Enterprise blog’s latest symposium: Death of Osama bin Laden, one year later.
Q: What do you believe killing bin Laden achieved?
Chairman McKeon: Killing Osama bin Laden brought final justice to a terrorist leader who murdered thousands of innocent people around the world. He can no longer threaten the American people. That’s important. Terrorism is an ideological fight. Some of his followers believed he was invincible, and he served as an inspirational leader for the broader al Qaeda movement. So stripping away the mythology and mystique that Bin Laden’s followers built around him is important, so long as we remember he left a potent, global terrorist network in place.
Q: Is Al Qaeda finished?
Chairman McKeon: No. While Al Qaeda has certainly sustained heavy losses since 2001, they remain the number one threat to the United States. Their ideology continues to thrive in places like Yemen, Somalia, Algeria, and Iraq and remains a grave threat to America. Many of the recent foiled terror plots against the United States homeland have originated from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. As long as these groups exist, we must continue to defend forward, keeping sustained pressure on terrorist groups. We also must continue to monitor and be watchful of terror groups in western Pakistan like the Haqqani network that continue to attack American troops, seek to destabilize Afghanistan, and has served as one of the most important protectors of al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan.
Q: Will we have the kind of military we need to catch the next bin Laden?
Chairman McKeon: I am confident that our military and intelligence community are focused on preventing the emergence of another bin Laden rather than catching the next one. However, I am concerned that the defense cuts resulting from sequestration could damage our most important capabilities in that fight. Sequestration represents an across-the-board cut to those sectors of our military most critical to fighting and preventing terrorism like special forces, intelligence, unmanned aircraft, and our naval forces, to name a few. It simply is not in our interest or safety to allow sequestration to stand, and we must take immediate action to ensure that we prevent those cuts from taking place.
Q: What do you think of the recent political uproar over political ads and claims of personal credit by the president?
Chairman McKeon: President Obama should be applauded for ordering the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. But members of the intelligence community have worked themselves to the bone trying to find and eliminate him. And it was the SEALs who risked their lives bringing him to justice. I’d be far more comfortable if the president acknowledged that this was a team effort, spanning two administrations, and various parts of the military and defense communities.