WASHINGTON - The US military campaign against al-Qaida should not be seen as a conflict without end, the Pentagon's chief lawyer said on Friday in a speech that broached a rarely discussed subject among US officials.
The Defense Department's highest-ranking lawyer, Jeh Johnson, predicted al-Qaida would some day be so "effectively destroyed" that the United States would no longer say it is in an armed conflict. A text of his remarks to be given at Oxford University in England was made available to Reuters in advance in Washington.
The US government points to the existence of an armed conflict as the legal underpinning of practices such as indefinite detention of the global militant group's members and allies.
Johnson's remarks could ignite a global political debate with arguments from both the left and the right.
The speech to the Oxford Union did not forecast when such a moment would arrive because, it said, al-Qaida and its affiliates in Yemen and elsewhere remain a danger.