Obama vows support for Kenya as White House defends anti-terror record

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Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told ABC on Sunday that the attack was proof that al Qaeda and its affiliates “are still extremely powerful and still able to really strike terror into the hearts of people.” The conservative American Enterprise Institute meanwhile bluntly asserts that the Westgate mall massacre is a “tragic reminder that U.S. strategy against al Qaeda, claims of success notwithstanding, is not working.”

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Monday the attack is proof that al Shabaab is on its heels.

“The fact of the matter is we’ve actually had a very aggressive effort to go after al Shabaab in Somalia, both through direct U.S. counterterrorism efforts, but also through support for AMISOM, the international force, including Kenya, that has pushed al Shabaab out of a number of its strongholds in Somalia,” Rhodes told reporters traveling with the president. “And, frankly, I think it was that pressure on al Shabaab that, in terms of their own professed motivation, led them to pursue an attack against Kenya.”

Rhodes also vowed that the administration would investigate claims that American citizens were among the attackers. Al Shabaab is known to seek to recruit disaffected Somali refugees, notably in Minneapolis.

"We do monitor very carefully and have for some time been concerned about efforts by al Shabaab to recruit Americans or U.S. persons to come to Somalia," Rhodes said. "So this is an issue that has been tracked very closely by the U.S. government, and it’s one that we’ll be looking into in the days ahead."

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