A Comprehensive Strategy to Fight Al-Qaeda: Yes or No?

Breaking News

In a series of recent public statements, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has again denied that the Clinton administration presented the incoming administration of President George W. Bush with a "comprehensive strategy" against al-Qaeda. Rice's denials were prompted by a September 22 Fox News interview with Bill Clinton in which the former president asserted that he had "left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy" with the incoming Bush administration in January 2001. In a September 25 interview, Rice told the New York Post, "We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al-Qaida," adding that, "Nobody organized this country or the international community to fight the terrorist threat that was upon us until 9/11."

The crux of the issue is a January 25, 2001, memo on al-Qaeda from counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, the first terrorism strategy paper of the Bush administration. The document was central to the debate over pre-9/11 Bush administration policy on terrorism and figured prominently in the 9/11 hearings held in 2004. A declassified copy of the Clarke memo was first posted on the Web by the National Security Archive in February 2005.

Clarke's memo "urgently" requested a high-level National Security Council review on al-Qaeda and included two attachments: a declassified December 2000 "Strategy for Eliminating the Threat from the Jihadist Networks of al-Qida: Status and Prospects" and the September 1998 "Pol-Mil Plan for al-Qida," the so-called Delenda Plan, which remains classified.

These documents and excerpts from the recent Rice and Clinton statements are now available on the Web site of the National Security Archive.


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