House calls hearing on al Qaeda 'false narrative'

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday accused the Obama administration of empowering al Qaeda with a "false narrative” about its demise and announced a hearing on the issue.

“The President's narrative fails to reflect the reality that al Qaeda is not on the run, but is in fact growing in strength at an alarming rate across the Middle East and Northern Africa,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said in a statement announcing a hearing titled: “A False Narrative Endangers the Homeland.”

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“We must take an honest look at the danger to the homeland from the spread of extremism,” he said. “Continuing to downplay the terrorist threat endangers our ability to defeat it, and this hearing will examine the consequences of the Administration’s counterterrorism rhetoric.”

Recent reports show al Qaeda is gaining a foothold in Iraq. Republicans are blaming the administration's withdrawal of all U.S. troops in 2011 and its reluctance to arm moderate rebels early on in Syria, potentially potent political attacks as key actors in those decisions — Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — mull presidential runs in 2016.

“As of last week, major fighting in both Ramadi and Fallujah saw al Qaeda-linked groups gain territory in cities where U.S. soldiers recently suppressed violent insurgents,” McCaul said. “The civil war in Syria is attracting jihadists and the fighting is spilling over into neighboring countries, while extremism engulfs entire regions in Libya and Somalia.”

The hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 15. Witnesses include former Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) — who served on all three major security committees in her 16 years in Congress — and former U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Jack Keane.

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