Washington: Killing of top al Qaeda leaders
in Pakistan in recent past has shaken the sense of security of
the terrorist leaders in Af-Pak tribal areas, a development
which could encourage them to move to other parts of the
world, a top CIA official said on Wednesday.
"These setbacks have shaken al Qaeda`s sense of security
in Pakistan`s tribal areas, driving the remaining leaders
underground to varying degrees and shifting a good bit of
attention from terrorist plotting to security and survival,"
CIA Director David Petraeus told lawmakers at a Congressional
hearing referring to the recent killing of senior al Qaeda
leaders in Pakistan.
"In fact, some mid-level leaders and rank-and-file
al Qaeda members may seek safe haven across the border in
Afghanistan or decide to leave South Asia," he said, adding
that some other senior leaders may assess that it is riskier
to move and remain in Pakistan`s tribal areas where trusted
facilitators offer limited freedom of movement, but where
their security will still be threatened.
"It will be more difficult for al Qaeda to attract and
accommodate would-be jihadists wanting to travel to the tribal
areas of Pakistan," Petraeus said, adding all of this amounts
again to a window of vulnerability for core al Qaeda and a
window of opportunity for the US and its allies.
"We must maintain the pressure and exploit this
opportunity," he said.
Petraeus said for more than a decade, al Qaeda`s senior
leadership and core organization in Pakistan and Afghanistan
have been capable of planning and executing dangerous plots
targeting the west.
"As a result of sustained counterterrorism efforts, a
substantial number with our partners in Pakistan and
Afghanistan, the core part of al Qaeda`s organization is much
weaker and less capable than when it attacked us on 9/11," he
"Osama bin Laden`s death in May dealt a stunning blow to
al Qaeda. Bin Laden was, of course, an iconic figure, the
group`s only leader since its founding. We know now that he
was deeply involved until the end in directing al Qaeda`s
operations and strategy, more deeply involved, in fact, than
many assessed before we were able to exploit the materials
found with him," he said.
"Bin Laden`s long-time deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri,
succeeded him in June, but much of al Qaeda`s support base
finds Zawahiri less compelling as a leader. We thus assess
that he will have more difficulty than did bin Laden in
maintaining the group`s cohesion and its collective motivation
in the face of continued pressure," he said.
"The layer of top lieutenants under bin Laden and
Zawahiri, the group responsible for day-to-day management of
al Qaeda and its operations, have sustained significant losses
in recent years as well. These losses have been especially
severe among terrorist plotters, paramilitary commanders,
trainers and bomb-makers," Petraeus said.
Recently, Pakistan announced the capture, with US
assistance, of Younis al-Mauritani, a senior al Qaeda
operative who was involved in planning attacks against the
interests of the United States and other countries.
Last month, al Qaeda lost its second-in-command and
senior operational coordinator, Atiyah Abdul Rahman.