By Alexander Bolton - 08/11/13 01:39 PM EDT
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned Sunday that al Qaeda is “on the rise” 12 years after the attacks of 9/11, despite the death of Osama bin Laden.
“You can’t say on the one hand you have destroyed, quote, core al Qaeda — by the way that is semantic gymnastics, which is remarkable — you can’t say that, and at the same time have to close embassies and consulates all over the Middle East,” McCain, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), McCain’s ally, said last Sunday that al Qaeda has been emboldened since the attack on U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.
“After Benghazi, these al Qaeda types are really on steroids thinking we’re weaker and they’re stronger,” he said.
McCain said the terrorist organization and its affiliated groups now pose a threat to the United States across the region.
“They have metastasized in a way that they may pose great threats throughout the Middle East, that they can destabilize nations, that they can commit acts of terror literally anywhere, and there’s the perception throughout the Middle East that there’s no American leadership, that there’s no policy,” he said.
He said the lack of a strong American response to the attacks in Libya and the civil war in Syria would lead to regional leaders becoming more accommodative of extremist groups.
“The action of closing these embassies shows they’re able to mount threats everywhere in the Middle East against the United States of America,” he said.
The administration closed 19 embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa because of an unspecified threat picked up by the National Security Agency. Eighteen of those posts were scheduled to reopen Sunday.