National Intelligence Estimate: Al Qaeda stronger and a threat to US homeland
Report points to war in Iraq and Pakistan's tribal areas as allowing Al Qaeda to regroup.
The release of a new report Tuesday that says Al Qaeda has reorganized to pre-9/11 strength and is preparing for a major US strike has sparked debate among government officials and observers about the Bush administration's foreign policy and counterterrorism efforts. The National Intelligence Estimate assessment indicates that the Islamic terrorist organization's rise has been bolstered by the Iraq war and the failure to counter extremism in Pakistan's tribal areas.Skip to next paragraph
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"The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland" report focuses on the next three years and is the first report to review the potential for terrorist attacks exclusively in the United States, reports The Boston Globe. The nation's 16 intelligence agencies began compiling the report last October and completed their assessment in June. Though the report indicated that Hizbullah may become a threat if the US takes action against Iran or seriously threatens or attacks the Islamic organization, the majority of the report focused on the "rejuvenating effect the Iraq war has had on Al Qaeda."
For the last few years intelligence officials have suggested much of Al Qaeda's central leadership has been neutralized, and that the primary national security threat came from splinter groups [Osama] bin Laden inspired but doesn't command. Yesterday's assessment summary concludes that the same organization that meticulously planned and executed the September 11th attacks is alive and well.
"This clearly says Al Qaeda is not beaten," said Michael Scheuer , who formerly headed up the CIA's bin Laden search team.
Al Qaeda is preparing for a major strike against the US, reports the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). The terrorist organization has intensified efforts to insert operatives in the US, however, since the 9/11 attacks only a "handful" of senior operatives have been discovered inside the US. The NIE also indicates that Al Qaeda will deploy nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons if they can acquire them.
We assess that al-Qai'da's homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the U.S. population. The group is proficient with conventional small arms and improvised explosive devices, and is innovative in creating new capabilities and overcoming security obstacles.
We assess that al-Qai'da will continue to try to acquire and employ chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear material in attacks and would not hesitate to use them if it develops what it deems is sufficient capability.
President Bush has defended his post-9/11 counterterrorism policies by citing the absence of new attacks on American soil and arguing that terrorists in Iraq present a greater challenge to US interests. The newly released report, however, has weakened President Bush's argument, reports The Washington Post.
[T]his line of defense seemed to unravel a bit yesterday with the release of a new National Intelligence Estimate that concludes that al-Qaeda "has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability" by reestablishing a haven in Pakistan and reconstituting its top leadership. The report also notes that al-Qaeda has been able "to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks," by associating itself with an Iraqi subsidiary.
These disclosures triggered a new round of criticism from Democrats and others who say that the administration took its eye off the ball by invading Iraq without first destroying Osama bin Laden's organization in Afghanistan.