Double dribbing with terrorists, or something

You’d think security officials, terrorist experts and American presidents would steer clear of basketball metaphors after that unfortunate WMD slam dunk business. You’d be wrong.

Earlier this year Barack Obama had this to say about al-Qaeda’s strength, after senior figures such as Osama bin Laden had been taken out but a number of regional franchises had emerged….

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.”

JV, I’m told, is a reference to junior varsity teams – ie not very good.

In evidence to Congress last night, Thomas Joscelyn, rather took that analogy and played a reverse screen thing….

“Part of the reason these assessments have been flawed is that al-Qaeda has a “deep bench” to draw from, both from within its own organization and allied groups. Al Qaeda is constantly in the process of recruiting new talent as well.

I would have preferred “drafting” new talent but it’s a neat response to Obama’s view, and shows the competing definitions of al-Qaeda – either the minimalist view of a core leadership out of touch with the affiliates, or the wider view of a movement much more deeply intertwined with its offshoots. Whether or not you think it has been defeated will depend on your definition.

 


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