Most Americans would think that after 9/11 and the four trillion dollar, 15 year “war on terror” that followed, the US government might actually wish to prevent individuals from visiting the country who are affiliated with al-Qaeda. Sadly, they would be wrong.
The McClatchy News Service reports that Labib al Nahhas, an official in the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist fighting group Ahrar al Sham, was granted a visa to enter the US for a brief visit.
In a recent State Department press briefing, one journalist questioned Department Spokesman Mark Toner about the purported visit. “Were US officials aware of this visit?” asked the journalist.
State Department Spokesman Mark Toner replied in an almost bored tone of voice: “I’m not sure that we were aware of it. I don’t think he had any meetings here [in the State Department]…and I can’t speak to visa records, [due to] privacy considerations.”
After being told that trillions of dollars had to be spent to prevent another 9/11 an official of a group affiliated with the organization that did 9/11 comes to the United States and the US government is not “not sure we were aware of it”?
The reporter persisted with a follow-up that seems pretty obvious: “One of the leaders of a group with known ties to al-Qaeda comes to the United States and you can’t say anything about it?”
Toner again sounding bored: “Again, I don’t have the details in front of me. If I get more information I’ll share it with you.”
Watch the unbelievable exchange here.
Why does the US government seem so uninterested in al-Qaeda affiliates entering the United States? After all, according to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act such “associated forces” are subject to arrest and indefinite detention without trial.
Instead, the al-Qaeda ally was allowed to enter the US – to lobby the US government!
Nahhas hadn’t planned meetings with any US officials but wanted to speak with ‘third parties’ who might be able to influence policymakers.
What about his group’s ties with al-Qaeda? Reports the news service:
The group’s ultimate vision is Islamist rule for Syria and its old links to al Qaida are no secret: One of the group’s founders, Abu Khalid al Suri, was memorialized by al Qaida leader Ayman al Zawahiri after his death in a bombing.
But surely the group has cleaned up its act in order to be allowed into the US? Nope.
As McClatchy reports, just this month the group participated alongside al-Qaeda in the massacre of several civilian members of the Alawite minority in Syria:
Ahrar continues to frustrate the United States and its allies with its operational coordination with al Qaida’s Nusra Front, including a joint attack this month in the Syrian village of Zara that resulted in what human rights group called the massacre of at least 19 civilians from the Alawite minority.
So they fight alongside al-Qaeda, they slaughter innocent civilians, they plan to implement strict Islamic law in Syria once victorious, yet the United States government has no problem with their leaders visiting the United States and lobbying the US government?
Does this not seem a bit odd to anyone else?