Sept. 8 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is working with Libya’s transitional government to keep terrorists from obtaining weapons or taking other advantage of the rebellion against Muammar Qaddafi, John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, said today.
“We are concerned about the potential for certain weapons to get into the hands of terrorists,” Brennan told reporters at a roundtable organized by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington. “We have worked very closely” with transitional authorities “to press them to take the appropriate steps to secure those weapons stockpiles. We’re continuing to make this a high priority.”
The new leadership in Libya is “working aggressively to again identify any type of opportunities that the terrorists might take advantage of,” Brennan said. “Libya is a large country” with a “large number of weapons” and “it’s going to take some time in order to ensure that they’re going to be appropriately secured.”
Four months after U.S. special forces killed al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Brennan said there is no evidence that the Pakistani government knew the terrorist was hiding in that country.
“I have not seen anything that indicates that the Pakistanis were aiding his refuge in Abbottabad,” he said. “I don’t see it.”
Meeting with reporters three days before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., Brennan said that the steps the U.S. has taken on security, intelligence gathering, law enforcement and the military have weakened al-Qaeda’s core and “made it much more difficult for al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group to carry out an attack here.”
At the same time, Brennan noted dangers posed by smaller al-Qaeda-related or -inspired groups in the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq and Africa, and he said the U.S. must continue to monitor threats within its borders.
He estimated that there are “a couple dozen, maybe” al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen focused on overseas attacks. The numbers in Pakistan are “more significant” and in the “hundreds,” he said.
Brennan declined to discuss whether the U.S. was safer because of President George W. Bush’s decision in 2003 to invade Iraq.
No Looking Back
“I try not to look back, I try to look forward,” Brennan said. The U.S. is working with the Iraqi government so that it can thrive and guard against terrorism, he said.
“We are where we are,” he said. “You can’t, you know, remake history. But I do think now we have an obligation to follow through” with U.S. commitments to the Iraqi people.
Obama will mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks with visits to the World Trade Center site in New York City; Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed after passengers fought their hijackers; and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.
The president also is to speak in Washington at a memorial concert that was moved to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts from the Washington National Cathedral because of a crane accident on the cathedral grounds yesterday.
To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at email@example.com