Al Qaeda weaker than ever before: Vickers
WASHINGTON (PAN): As a result of a sustained counterterrorism campaign, senior leaders of Al Qaeda are being eliminated at a rate far faster than they can be replaced, a top Pentagon intelligence official has said.
"Al Qaeda remains a very dangerous threat to the American homeland and the vanguard of the global jihadist movement," Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers said in a speech on Thursday.
The group was under far more pressure and is in a far more precarious position than it had been at any time since it was ejected from its Afghanistan safe haven in 2001, Vickers said at the National Defense University.
"Al Qaeda's senior leaders and rank and file feel besieged by US counterterrorism operations. Its senior leaders are being eliminated at a rate far faster than Al Qaeda can replace them, and the replacements the group is able to field are much less experienced," he added.
However, the top Pentagon official acknowledged the network was able to recover from the loss of its Afghanistan safe haven and key leaders, as it initially sought sanctuary in Pakistan's settled areas by 2003, establishing a new safe haven in the tribal region.
But that was no longer the case, he added. "Assuming sustained counterterrorism operations against the group, within 18 to 24 months, core Al Qaeda's cohesion and operational capabilities could be degraded to the point that the group could fragment and exist mostly as a propaganda arm."
"We may not be done with the operational dismantlement of all of the group's regional affiliates within the next two years. But the operational dismantlement of core Al Qaeda will markedly reduce the threat to the American homeland, and it will put us much closer to its eventual defeat," he concluded.
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