Barack Obama
Barack ObamaReuters

Is the War on Terror over?

The Obama administration doesn't seem able to decide.

“The war on terror is over,” a senior State Department official told the National Journal in light of the Arab spring uprisings and the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

"Now that we have killed most of al Qaeda, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaeda see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism." 

This new outlook has, in the words of the National Journal, come from a belief among administration officials that "It is no longer the case, in other words, that every Islamist is seen as a potential accessory to terrorists."

The article was fresh off the presses when a White House spokesman took issue with the report.

According to the White House the State Department official had "misspoken" and President Obama’s “war on Al Qaeda” was being "fought furiously."

However, Obama himself rejected his predecessor George W. Bush’s formulation of a “Global War on Terror” in 2009.

Instead, he jettisoned the notion of fighting all terrorist groups who target America and its interests, instead redefining it as a “war on Al Qaeda, its affiliates, and adherents.”

Doing so allowed the Obama administration in 2011 to attempt to redefine its war against the Islamist Taliban in Afghanistan as not being with a terror organization, but a guerilla insurgency. US officials began claiming there were "fewer than 100" Al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan.

Such a fine line allowed the State Department to open a channel of communication with Taliban leaders in the hopes of negotiating a solution to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, without breaking the long-held US policy of not negotiating with terrorists.

That distinction, however, was blown out of the water this week when documents seized by US commandos during their raid to kill Al-Qaeda arch-terrorist Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan last May were released to the public.

The documents revealed Bin Laden was in close contact with the leaders of the Taliban and other terrorist groups - and that they shared strikingly similar ideological views, strategic notions, and anti-American goals.

Such intelligence makes it clear the Taliban, if it were to negotiate its return to Kabul, would provide safe haven and active support for Al-Qaeda. And that has become a problem for a President who wants to embrace the Islamists and negotiate with them.

The Obama administration’s desire not to fight a "Global War on Terror" was sharply underscored in last week's trial of Najibullah Zazi, the home-grown mastermind of the 2009 Al-Qaeda plot to bomb New York’s subways.

The suicide strike might have been the deadliest attack on American soil since 9/11 had the FBI and NYPD not thwarted it, police say.

While Zazi and a fellow home-grown terrorist from Queens pleaded guilty to terror charges and testified for the government, a third conspirator, Adis Medunjanin, denied guilt.

The testimony against him was proof that the war - on whatever Obama wants to call it today - proceeds lethally apace.

But in Obama's political poker, a spade is not a spade and the public has no idea what - or if - the nation is fighting its enemies.