On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Pakistani officials that American drone strikes in Pakistan will end "very, very, soon." But if the State Department's global travel alert from this Friday holds any indication of our fear of Al-Qaeda, Kerry will not likely fulfill his promise.
Now Pakistan is neither in the Middle East nor North Africa, but for the sake of the "War on Terror" it might as well be. The reason the Obama administration remains dedicated to droning Pakistan is because Al-Qaeda cells have established themselves there. And since this "War on Terror" seems to be unending, Kerry's droneless future for Pakistan indicates that the U.S. believes Al-Qaeda poses less of a threat there than it did once.
But Friday's travel warning may prove that Kerry was wrong to be so naive. The Travel Warning List in and of itself can be confusing. Most of the countries with travel warnings are either in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, or North Africa. But Friday's warning was different because the State Department issued a worldwide travel alert. The threat is unspecified, but Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told the BBC that this alert was not prompted by "the regular chit chat."
In the official notification, the State Department wrote that the warning would expire on August 31, 2013, but that until then, no American (especially abroad) is safe. The State Department wrote,
"The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula. Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August."
Should we actually be afraid? Maybe not. Since the threat is indeed still unspecified, the United States is just covering its bases — literally all of them — by issuing a travel alert for the entire world and not just one country. Some embassies abroad are closing as well for the weekend. But post-Benghazi, it is not surprising that the State Department is taking preemptive measures.
The irony of all this is that even if Al-Qaeda's presence in Pakistan is dwindling as John Kerry seemed to suspect, and even if Pakistan is not connected to the terror threat that launched the State Department's worldwide alert, America is still going to send drones there. Friday's alert shows us that the State Department believes terrorists are still embedded in the many corners of the non-Western world.
And since that world isn't going anywhere — and we aren't going anywhere — terror isn't either.
So Pakistan, John Kerry probably just lied to you. And that's just how the cookie crumbles.