The Pentagon Can't Say If It Stopped the Khorasan Terror Threat
Early reports that Mohsin al-Fadhli, one of the group's leaders, was killed during still can’t be confirmed. By Jordain Carney
Top military officials still don't know if last month's airstrikes stopped the "imminent" threat of a terrorist attack posed by an al-Qaida-linked terrorist group in Syria.
"The assessment on the Khorasan Group is still a work in progress. We remain focused on this, and of course once we—as we gain better information, we will maintain pressure on that organization," Gen. Lloyd Austin, who oversees U.S. Central Command, told reporters Friday.
The United States launched eight strikes against the Khorasan Group last month "to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests," Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, said in a Sept. 23 statement.
Those strikes targeted the group's "training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communications building, and command and control facilities."
There were also early reports that Mohsin al-Fadhli, one of the group's leaders, was killed during the airstrikes around Aleppo—a city in northwestern Syria—but the Pentagon is unable to confirm those reports.
At the time of the airstrikes, little was publicly known about the terrorist organization. But administration officials say the group, which has connections to core Qaida leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan, was sent to Syria to plan attacks against the West.
Defense Department officials have been questioned on the strikes, including how "imminent" the Khorasan Group's plot was. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon's spokesperson, said last month that it doesn't "mean that it was a day or two or a week or two away; it just means that we believed—we had good reason to believe that they were getting close to getting into that execution phase."
Since then U.S. intelligence officials, including FBI Director James Comey, have suggested that the airstrikes failed to disrupt the group's plot, and that the group still remains a threat.
Kirby said that the Pentagon isn't sure if it foiled the group's attack, but he added, "We do believe that we definitely degraded, damaged, destroyed some of their capabilities."