Pentagon Lawyer: US Near al-Qaeda 'Tipping Point' Group someday won't be considered military adversary under law By John Johnson, Newser Staff Posted Dec 1, 2012 6:21 AM CST 33 comments Comments In this Jan. 11, 2002, file photo, detainees sit in a holding area at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Shane T.McCoy, File) (Newser) – Al-Qaeda may still view itself as America's No. 1 enemy, but the Pentagon has a different, ego-deflating assessment. The way things are going, the terror group soon won't qualify as an official adversary of the military, the Pentagon's top lawyer said in a speech at London's Oxford University last night, reports the Guardian. Two key points by Jeh Johnson, who, incidentally, is thought to be a top contender for attorney general when Eric Holder steps down in about a year: "I do believe that on the present course there will come a tipping point, a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, such that al-Qaeda as we know it, the organization that our Congress authorized the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed." "At that point we must be able to say to ourselves that our efforts should no longer be considered an armed conflict against al-Qaeda and its associated forces, rather a counter-terrorism effort against individuals who are the scattered remains of al-Qaeda … for which the law enforcement and intelligence resources of our government are principally responsible." The military would play a more limited role, stepping in when necessary. The speech is part of the administration's long-range efforts to clarify its counterterror rules, explains the Wall Street Journal, which susses out a tangible possibility: Remaining detainees at Gitmo are held under the 2001 Authority for the Use of Military Force against al-Qaeda. If that decree is no longer in effect a few years down the road, it presents an avenue for the release of prisoners and closure of the detention facility.