In his first public remarks after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253, President Obama reiterated a number of expected themes. His two reviews of the vast U.S. watchlist system that failed to prevent Abdulmutallab from boarding the plane and the airport screening procedures that failed to detect his explosive device. The need not to give in to “fear and division.” The objective of al-Qaeda and its allies not just to kill Americans but to attack the “open society and values we cherish.”
But there was more. “We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable,” Obama said. While investigations into Abdulmutallab’s ties to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, continue — even after the group itself claimed involvement in the attempted attack — Obama said that extremists “must know that the U.S. will do more than strengthen our defenses.” That means going after them in Afghanistan, Pakistan, “Yemen, or Somalia, or anywhere else.”
For the first time in connection with Yemen and Somalia, Obama used the “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” construction his Afghanistan strategy employs to describe U.S. aims against al-Qaeda. Whether that means more airstrikes in Yemen remains to be seen — Obama said vaguely that the U.S. will use all its national power against the extremist threat — but, you know, it’s not a bad bet.