Al Qaeda still dan­ger­ous

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

CIA Di­rec­tor Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hay­den told Congress last week that the al Qaeda ter­ror­ist group is still plan­ning at­tacks on the United States, de­spite “sig­nif­i­cant losses” since 2001.

Even though a ma­jor por­tion of the lead­ers of the group have been killed or cap­tured, “the group’s cadre of sea­soned, com­mit­ted lead­er­shasal­lowedit­tore­main­fair­ly­co­he­sive­and­stay­fo­cuse­donitsstrate­gic ob­jec­tives,” Gen. Hay­den said.

“Osama bin Laden and Ay­man al-Zawahiri con­tinue to play a cru­cial role in in­spir­ing ji­hadists and pro­mot­ing unity,” he said. “Their demise would not spell the end of the threat, but prob­a­bly would con­trib­ute to the un­rav­el­ing of the cen­tral al Qaeda or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

The loss of lead­ers such as Khalid Sheikh Mo­hammed and Ramzi Bi­nal­shibh has been “mit­i­gated” by the ter­ror­ist group’s “deep bench” of lower-level lead­ers who are as­sum­ing lead­er­ship roles.

“Al­though a num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als are new to se­nior man­age­ment in al Qaeda, they are not new to ji­had: They av­er­age over 40 years of age and nearly two decades of in­volve­ment in ji­had,” Gen. Hay­den said.

The group still has a safe haven in the Afghanistan-Pak­istan border re­gion, which pro­vides “phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal space needed to meet, train, ex­pand its net­works and pre­pare new at­tacks.”

Lo­cals in the re­gion have ties to al Qaeda dat­ing back to the 1980s. Findin­gan­d­rootin­gout­group­mem­ber­shave­been­maded­if­fi­cult­bythe rough ter­rain and the lo­cal cul­ture, which is op­posed to out­siders.

“The safe haven not only gives al Qaeda and the Tal­iban a venue for ter­ror­ist plot­ting, but also serves as a jumpoff point for its guer­rilla for­ays into Afghanistan,” he said.

“Our open so­ci­ety presents an al­most end­less source of tar­gets, and the en­emy has demon­strated its ruth­less­ness through a will­ing- ness to at­tack civil­ians — in­clud­ing other Mus­lims — a pref­er­ence for spec­tac­u­lar, high-ca­su­alty op­er­a­tions, and its own ad­her­ents’ de­sire for mar­tyr­dom,” Gen. Hay­den said.

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