NIE: al-Qaeda Regrouped, Stronger In Pakistan
While not news to regular ThreatsWatch readers, the National Intelligence Estimate recently produced by CT analysts officially documents that Al-Qaeda is not 'on the ropes' or even weakened any more than it is lead by two men darting about from cave to cave. They are, in fact, stronger, more capable of producing terrorists and more comfortable in their havens carved out in Pakistan than they were in Afghanistan prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Counterterrorism analysts produced the document, titled "Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West." The document pays special heed to the terror group's safe haven in Pakistan and makes a range of observations about the threat posed to the United States and its allies, officials said.
Al-Qaida is "considerably operationally stronger than a year ago" and has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001," the official said, paraphrasing the report's conclusions. "They are showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States."
The group also has created "the most robust training program since with an interest in using European operatives," the official quoted the report as saying.
And the threat to and from Europe is troubling.
Several European countries—among them Britain, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands—are also highlighted in the threat assessment partly because they have arrangements with the Pakistani government that allow their citizens easier access to Pakistan than others, according to the counterterrorism official.
This is more troubling because all four are part of the U.S. visa waiver program, and their citizens can enter the United States without additional security scrutiny, the official said.
It must be recognized that, in the course of this long war, there will be no final defeat of al-Qaeda without major unforgiving ground operations within Pakistan.
"Sooner or later you have to quit permitting them to have a safe haven" along the Afghan-Pakistani border, he [CIA director of analysis John Kringen] told the House committee. "At the end of the day, when we have had success, it is when you've been able to get them worried about who was informing on them, get them worried about who was coming after them."
And that, "sooner or later," will most probably fall by default to the United States to execute, quite probably after the Pakistani government and its military are taken over by the Islamists within or aligned with the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance that already dominates a significant percentage of Pakistani territory. This territory now includes the Swat agency, quietly but officially ceded to the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance last week to go along with the previously ceded areas of North Waziristan, South Waziristan and Bajour.
The question remains: What to do and when?
We know to whom the tasks fall.