WASHINGTON – President Obama's description of al-Qaida in a recent New Yorker interview as a "jayvee," or junior varsity, team is "idiotic," charges retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, who recently was threatened with beheading by the terrorist group.
The comment – which seemed to dare al-Qaida to attack – arose in a discussion of the growth of the offshoot group Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Qaida's influence in Iraq and Syria.
Obama told the New Yorker al-Qaida's activities don't always threaten American interests.
"How we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn't lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into," Obama said.
Vallely said Obama's stance "doesn't make sense."
"There is no rational analysis in such a statement. How do you explain such a position?"
Vallely said it's clear that the U.S. is the main enemy of al-Qaida.
"We are the target, as are other Western countries. It's all part of al-Qaida building a world caliphate. Obama's comment implies that if you don't attack American interests, then it's OK to go ahead and launch attacks, which makes it all the more horrific."
It was an al-Qaida leader from Chechnya fighting in Syria who threatened to "kidnap" Vallely and "cut his head off," according to the general.
The threat to behead Vallely and his Middle East expert, Col. Nagy N. Najjar, came in a statement on a Facebook video made by a man whom Najjar identified as Abu Abdullah.
Abdullah is the Chechen emir of the Mujahideen of the Islamic State of Iraq and Shaam (Syria), or ISIS, an affiliate of al-Qaida.
In the New Yorker interview, writer David Remnick reminded the president that after the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALs, he said al-Qaida was "decimated."
At the time of the interview, Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq had just been overtaken by al-Qaida rebels.
"The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn't make them Kobe Bryant," Obama said.
"I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian."
Vallely said Obama and his advisers, specifically CIA Director John O. Brennan and personal adviser Valerie Jarret, are "clueless on what is going on on the ground here," referring to Syria.
"Yeah, al-Qaida is on the run all right – all over the Middle East, Africa and growing," Vallely said. "Obama lacks any understanding or clear vision and we therefore continue to make mistakes without successes.
"Look at the Middle East as a chessboard," Vallely said. "We see the Russians, Saudis, the Turks and Iranians and see all their influences become very transnational as al-Qaida moves into vacuums it sees.'
The leaders of those countries see the U.S. as weak, he said.
"Obama wants nothing to do with anything in the Middle East and we therefore lose allies and respect," he said. "It is a planned agenda of incompetence, and not realistic."
Najjar, in an email to Vallely made available to WND, said that the occasion of Abu Abdullah's comments about beheadings was a recent battle at Bliad al-Sham, which the Chechen leader said was a plot by the CIA against al-Qaida.
"The Syrians are not threatening," Najjar said. "It is the Chechens that are doing it. These are the 'shock' troops of AQ on the battlefields. Most of the suicide operations in Syria were done by Islamic Kamikaze Chechnyns."
Najjar warned Vallely to prepare his own defenses.
"Take some precautions," Najjar said. "You never know if [the jihadists] have a few idiots operating in [the U.S.]."
In a recent interview with WND, Najjar said that the Free Syrian Army, or FSA, can deal with the al-Qaida threat if it has proper support from the U.S. and allies.
"FSA is against the MB (Muslim Brotherhood) and the FSA is against the AQ (al-Qaida) and the FSA is against the Assad regime and Iran," Najjar said. "AQ is against all, preaching for the caliphate."
Vallely and Najjar were in Syria last August offering the support of Stand Up America to FSA leader Col. Riad al-Asaad. Vallely told Asaad that the U.S. has "a national security obligation" to keep Syria from being controlled by Islamic extremists.
"Obama needs to back the FSA fighters in Syria," Vallely said at the time.
His visit to Syria coincided with the sarin poison gas attack that took place Aug. 21.
'May Allah enable us to kidnap him'
The video from Abu Abdullah, who was shown surrounded by armed, masked Chechen fighters, said: "The American general (Gen. Paul E. Vallely), may Allah enable us to kidnap him and cut his head off, has gathered with the Free (Syrian) Army and they have made battle plans to attack the Islamic state."
Abu Abduallah also is known as Abu Omar al-Chechen, or Abu Abdullah Omar al-Shishani, an Islamic fighter from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge. The area has been used as a sanctuary by Chechen fighters battling Russia for independence and the creation of a Caucasus Emirate based on Islamic law.
Abu Abdullah, who once fought Russian security forces in Russia, has been in Syria fighting against the military forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Chechens are regarded as some of the most ruthless of the Islamic militant fighters.
Chechens and other North Caucasus fighters who are Sunni extremists are fighting against Assad, a Shiite Alawite who has major military and political backing not only from Shiite Iran but also Russian President Vladimir Putin.
To many analysts, the three-year Syrian civil war is regarded as a proxy sectarian conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the bastion of Sunni Islam.
The threat by a Chechen Islamic militant leader against Vallely comes as Russia gears up for potential suicide terrorist attacks from North Caucasus militants, including Chechens, at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, which begins Feb. 7.
The threat is so serious that the U.S. military has placed air assets on alert in Germany and deployed two U.S. warships to the Black Sea within easy reach of Sochi. In addition, the Pentagon has offered Russia detection technology for improvised explosive devices, which the North Caucasus fighters are known to use in their suicide attacks.
Vallely and Najjar are known for their backing of the Free Syrian Army, which they regard as the only legitimate opposition to fight the Assad regime as the Syrian opposition increasingly has been taken over by al-Qaida affiliates, including ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.
Vallely heads the organization Stand Up America and also has been very outspoken in his opposition to Obama's policies. The general has criticized what he terms "purges" of high ranking military officers who don't agree with the president's policies on openly "gay" personnel in the military, women in the infantry and restrictions on the rules of engagement for U.S. troops in combat.
Vallely and his Syrian Opposition Liaison Group recently were instrumental with the help of the Free Syrian Army in obtaining the release of two Swedish journalists, Niclas Hammarstrom and Magnus Falkehed, who had been held captive for a month and a half by bandits in Syria.