CIA says al-Qaida depleted but still lethal

By WND Staff

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The Central Intelligence Agency views the al-Qaida terrorist network as still very dangerous despite the death and capture of a large number of its leaders, reports Geostrategy-Direct, the global intelligence news service.

A senior CIA official outlined the changes in the Islamist terror group headed by Osama bin Laden during a recent briefing.

“Two thirds of the leadership gone, these are the people who directed the organization top-down in every aspect of the organization,” the official said. “They did training. I’m talking about their chem/bio program, financial piece of it and the operational piece. Al-Qaida had a very well structured organization pre-9-11. Every aspect of that operational leadership has been degraded substantially across the board.”

The official said the most significant blow to the organization was the capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Abu Zubaida.

“The organization today, al-Qaida, our enemy, does not exist today as it did three years ago,” the official said. “Those who follow the ones that we have taken down do not have the authority or the capability of their predecessors. We know this from the al-Qaida people that we talk to.”

The official said one senior al-Qaida official said the loss of Mohammed “was like the melting of an iceberg. We can never replace him.”

The terrorist group, which was formed in 1988 but not identified fully by the CIA until 1998, also has lost the key safe haven of Afghanistan.

Following the ouster of the Taliban in December 2001, al-Qaida tried to transfer the infrastructure to Pakistan. But the group was unable to operate in urban Pakistani areas due, in part, to effective Pakistani counterterror operations.

In Yemen, up to 10 al-Qaida leaders have been “taken off the table” by counterterrorism efforts, the official said. And six top al-Qaida leaders in Saudi Arabia have been killed or captured, he said.

Still the threat from the group has not subsided.

“We have damaged this target but this target looks to the United States still as the brass ring,” the official said. “As they go down, they want to continue to attack us in the ways they did three years ago.”

“We’re facing an adversary that’s declined in terms of its capabilities, but that is still highly lethal because they are committed, they’ve spent a lot of time studying us and because you have to understand that the kinds of operations we can see don’t necessarily require the kinds of sophistication we saw on September 11th. We may see that again but it doesn’t take that to kill a lot of people. We have a long way to go.”

The group is focusing on attacking targets like airliners and ships, based on the lessons the terrorists learned from past operations.

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