At the beginning of a speech to praise Adm. Mike Mullen as he stepped down as chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff -- and to welcome the new chair, Gen. Martin Dempsey -- President Obama addressed the death of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operative Anwar al-Awlaki.
“The death of Awlaki is a major blow to Al Qaeda's most active operational affiliate,” Obama said.
As was reported earlier today, an American drone launched an airstrike in Yemen against an Al Qaeda convoy that included Awlaki. Multiple U.S. government sources and the government of Yemen confirmed that Awlaki was killed.
In his remarks, the president blamed Awlaki and AQAP not only for multiple attempts to kill Americans inside and outside of the United States, but also the deaths of many in Yemen.
“Awlaki and his organization have been directly responsible for the deaths of many Yemenis citizens. His hateful ideology and targeting of innocent civilians has been rejected by the vast majority of Muslims and people of all faiths,” he said.
Obama reminded his audience, “Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula remains a dangerous, though weakened, terrorist organization. And going forward, we will remain vigilant against any threats to the United States or our allies or partners.”
He continued, “Make no mistake: This is further proof that Al Qaeda and its affiliates will find no safe haven anywhere in the world.”
Mullen, in his last speech as chairman of the Joint Chiefs struck a lighter tone when alluding to the operation, “And to those of you who aren't the closest to us, well, maybe you should have stepped it up a notch. It doesn't hurt to have friends with access to drones.”
But Mullen backed up Obama's assessment of a weakened Al Qaeda network. “President Obama made it clear from the beginning that he valued military counsel and that protecting the American people was his top priority, and he's made good on both promises. Bin Laden is dead; Awlaki is dead; Al Qaeda is a much- diminished network.”
Awlaki is credited with being the mastermind behind the failed attempts to blow up an American passenger plane on Christmas day of 2009 and a vehicle in Times Square in 2010.