By Carlo Muñoz - 08/05/13 08:38 PM EDT
The Pentagon has placed its elite cadre of special operations teams on full alert to launch preemptive attacks against suspected al Qaeda targets across the globe, according to reports.
The American special forces teams have spent the past week waiting for U.S. military and intelligence officials to confirm the whereabouts of the terror cell plotting to attack U.S. diplomatic outposts in the Mideast and North Africa.
Special operations units located in U.S. Central Command and Africa Command, which have traditionally been responsible for operations against al Qaeda and its regional affiliates, are the most likely candidates to carry out these strikes.
Administration officials last Friday ordered the temporary closure of more than 20 diplomatic posts and issued a worldwide travel alert, after government officials said they intercepted al Qaeda chatter that indicated a specific and imminent terror threat.
The State Department announced Sunday that the embassies would remain closed for another week as the terror threat across the region remained high.
The decision to extend the embassy closings came after President Obama met with senior leaders of his national security team on Saturday.
The high-level meeting at the White House was attended by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency Chief Gen. Keith Alexander.
Dempsey and Kerry held a follow-up meeting on Monday.
The closures and travel warning came after U.S. intelligence officials intercepted communications between al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the head of al Qaeda's Yemen faction.
Al-Zawahiri took control of the terrorist organization in 2011, after former leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces during a raid on his home in Abottabad, Pakistan, in May of that year.
The intercepted communications reportedly included details of a large-scale terror plot against U.S. and Western targets in Africa and the Mideast.
“This was significant because it was the big guys talking, and talking about very specific timing for an attack or attacks,” one American official who had been briefed on the intelligence reports told The New York Times.
The group's Yemeni cell, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is considered one of the terrorist organization's most dangerous and well-funded factions in the world.
The Yemeni group was responsible for three attempted airline bombings targeting the United States over the past several years.
On Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney cautioned that the terror threat could “potentially be beyond” the Mideast.
“I would say that the threat is emanating from and maybe directing towards the Arabian Peninsula, but it is beyond that,” Carney said.