Al Qaeda may flee Afghanistan and South Asia: CIA

Petraeus said that within 18-24 months, the core of the al Qaeda could be degraded to merely a propaganda arm.

Washington: America`s new intelligence chief
David Petraeus has predicted that al Qaeda leaders may flee
Afghanistan and the entire south Asia as they were being
pressed hard by American forces.

In his first week on the new job as the CIA chief,
Petraeus said that within 18-24 months, the core of the
al Qaeda could be degraded to the point that the group will
fragment and exist mostly as a propaganda arm.

Making his first Congressional appearance as a civilian at
the rare joint hearing by the Joint Intelligence Committee of
the House and Senate, the former American military commander
in Afghanistan said, "Heavy losses to al Qaeda`s senior
leadership appears to have created an important window of
vulnerability for the core of the grouping in Pakistan and
Afghanistan," CNN reported.

He told the Congressional Committee that US will need a
"sustained, focused effort" to exploit the opportunity.

The CIA chief said that eight of the al Qaeda`s top 20
leaders were killed this year alone, chief among them been
their supremo Osama bin Laden.

Al Qaeda leaders may even flee Afghanistan or leave south
Asia altogether to escape the CIA, which has quadrupled the
covert drone strikes against militant groups based in
Pakistan`s restive tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

Petraeus called bin Laden`s long time deputy and successor
Ayman al Zawahiri a "less compelling" leader who will have
more difficulty than bin Laden in "maintaining the group`s
cohesion and its collective motivation in the face of
continued pressure."

He called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based
affiliate, the most dangerous of al Qaeda`s various "nodes,"
citing the group`s two nearly successful attacks on the United
States: the December 2009 attempt to blow up a Northwest
airliner as it approached Detroit and the cargo bomb plot of

Petraeus labeled Somalia "one of the world`s most
significant havens for terrorists," saying Al-Shabaab, the
al Qaeda affiliate there, is large and well-financed and is
training hundreds of foreign fighters, including some

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who also
took part in the hearing, agreed that despite US successes
against it, al Qaeda remains a threat. He pointed to the
terror concerns over this past weekend regarding a possible
plot timed to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

"Terrorists still wish to do us harm, to destroy our
institutions and to kill Americans without conscience," he


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