'Al Qaeda ideological leader of global extremists'
Washington: Al Qaeda core's capability to
conduct attacks might have been significantly diminished, but
the network remains the ideological leader of the global
extremist movement, a top intelligence official told US
lawmakers on Wednesday.
Matthew Olsen, Director of the National Counterterrorism
Center, said at a Congressional hearing that the trend of
homegrown violent extremists inspired by al Qaeda's ideology
means the US faces a much more diverse threat today.
"Al Qaeda core's capability to conduct attacks has been
significantly diminished, weakened, but not vanquished. The
group remains the ideological leader of the global extremist
movement," he said.
"It continues to influence others through propaganda.
Al Qaeda's senior leadership has advanced several unsuccessful
smaller-scale Western plots in the past two years and these
plots highlight its ability to continue attack preparations
while under sustained counterterrorism pressure, and just this
past week we acted in response to unconfirmed intelligence of
a possible threat that the group was planning attack in the
United States," he said.
As such, the US remains concerned that al Qaeda may be
plotting to strike against it at home or overseas.
Further, since al Qaeda's relocation to Pakistan, it has
encouraged its militant allies to expand their operational
agendas to include US and Western targets both within the
region and overseas, Olsen said.
He said 10 years after 9/11, the US faces a much more
diverse and diffused threat from groups affiliated to
al Qaeda, with these affiliates having increased the scope of
their operations seeking to strike US and Western targets both
inside and outside of their respective regions.
Pointing out that a key element of evolution of threat
since 9/11 is the advent of homegrown violent extremists, he
said: "These individuals are inspired by al Qaeda's global
extremist agenda. Over the past three years, we've seen an
increase in violent extremist English content online".
"This has fostered greater cohesion among homegrown
violent extremists. Plots disrupted during the past year
appear to be unrelated operationally but may share a common
cause, rallying independent extremists to attack the
homeland," he added.
Olson said the narrative that drives homegrown extremists
is a blend of al Qaeda inspiration, perceived victimisation
and "a glorification of homeland plotting".
"HVEs who independently plan attacks with no direction
inside the United States or overseas are difficult to detect
and disrupt and could advance plotting with little or no
warning," he said.