`Qaeda core can be reduced to mere propaganda arm`

The Pentagon official said three years of intense counter terrorism pressure have taken an enormous toll on the group`s leadership.

Washington: Observing that this year alone
core of Al Qaeda has lost eight of its top 20 leaders, a top
Pentagon official said with the current level of counter
terrorism operations, the core of this terrorist outfit could
be reduced to a mere propaganda arm.

"Assuming sustained counter-terrorism (CT) 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, and power could devolve to regional
affiliates," Michael Vickers, the Under Secretary of Defense
for Intelligence, said.

"The strategic defeat of al Qaeda is now for the first
time within our reach," he said, adding the operational
dismantlement of core al Qaeda is only another step, albeit a
huge one, toward the group`s eventual strategic defeat.

"We likewise 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 US homeland,
and it will put us much closer to al Qaeda`s eventual defeat
as the vanguard of global jihadist movement," Vickers said at
a conference early this week at National Defense University.

He said the recently released national counter terrorism
strategy is focused very tightly on the network that poses the
most direct and significant threat to the US - al Qaeda, its
affiliates, and its adherents.

"It is not a war on terror, but rather a war with al
Qaeda. Our goal, as President Obama has stated, is to disrupt,
dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, and prevent the group`s return.

We seek nothing less than the utter destruction of this evil
that calls itself al Qaeda," he said.

The Pentagon official said three years of intense counter
terrorism pressure have taken an enormous toll on the group`s
leadership, its rank and file operatives, and those who
provide it sanctuary.

"It is not too much to say that the accelerated CT
campaign that is bringing about al Qaeda`s destruction is the
most precise campaign in the history of warfare," he said.

"The group`s losses in 2011 have been particularly
devastating: most notably, of course, the group`s founder and
leader, Osama Bin Laden, but also its General Manager and no
2, Atiyah `Abd al-Rahman, and two key external operations
leaders, llyas Kashmiri and Younis al Mauritani. This year
alone, core al Qaeda has lost 8 of its `Top 20` leaders," he

Of the top nine al Qaeda had on September 11, 2001, only
Ayman al-Zawahiri has thus far managed to escape death or

"One of core al Qaeda`s safe haven providers and
operational allies, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, also in 2010
tried to blow up an SUV in Times Square, and we have evidence
that the UP remains interested in attacking the US," he said.

"We also have increasing evidence that another of al
Qaeda`s safe haven providers in the FATA - the Haqqani Network
- has adopted at Qaida`s aim of attacking the American

"The credible and specific, though unconfirmed threat to
New York and Washington, DC, that hung over the tenth
anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is a reminder that al Qaeda
remains a dangerous threat that must be eliminated, and much
work remains to be done," he said.

Vickers said the unrest in the Middle East and North
Africa is currently providing and could continue to provide al
Qaeda with increased operating space.

But over the longer term, the opportunity of Islamist
groups to participate in the political process could prove to
be a strategic setback for al Qaeda.


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