Washington: At its "weakest point" ever,
terror network al Qaeda is now targeting to recruit westerners
for launching attacks, raising the threat to US from homegrown
extremists, top American officials said on Wednesday.
National Counter Terrorism Center chief Michele Leiter
said the organisation might have depleted organisationally but
the group has shown "resilience".
"... today Al Qaida in Pakistan is at one of its
weakest points organisationally, but I would stress a
significant `however` -- that the group has time and time
again proven its resilience and remains a very capable and
determined enemy," Leiter said.
He said the range of al Qaida allies plotting against
the country during the past year suggests the threat has in
fact grown more complex, he asserted.
"Al Qaida`s affiliates and allies` increasing ability
to provide training, guidance and support for attacks against
the US makes it very difficult to anticipate the precise
nature of the next attack and from where it might come,"
He said its regional affiliates that have grown have
been able to compensate to some extent for the decreased
willingness of `Al Qaida in Pakistan` to accept and train new
"And even failed attacks, such as AQAP`s and TTP`s
attempts this past year, do to some extent further Al Qaida`s
goal of fomenting terrorist attacks against the West and
demonstrate that some affiliates and allies and homegrown
terrorists are embracing their vision," the official said.
FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Congressional
hearing that despite significant counterterrorism pressure, al
Qaida continues to be committed to high profile attacks
directed at the West, including plans against Europe and US.
He pointed out that recent investigations have
revealed a shift in the strategy of attacks, with al Qaeda
which earlier picked up recruits from the Middle East or South
Asia, now making the West its recruiting ground.
"Since 2006, al Qaida has looked to recruit Americans
or Westerners who are able to remain undetected by heightened
security measures," Mueller said, pointing to the example of
Najibullah Zazi, who was plotting to attack the New York
"We are increasingly concerned about the threats from
these groups operating from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen,
Somalia, Iraq. Their threats focus more on homeland attacks
now, as we saw with the Christmas Day and Times Square
attempted bombings," Mueller said.
He said cooperation between al Qaida and other
terrorist groups has changed in the past year, and these
groups have been able to withstand significant counter-
terrorism pressure by sharing financial resources, training