AP has leaked details of a US Intelligence assessment with alarming news of al Qaeda’s current strength and capabilities.
A new threat assessment from U.S. counterterrorism analysts says that al-Qaida has used its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities to a level unseen since the months before Sept. 11, 2001.
A counterterrorism official familiar with a five-page summary of the document – titled “Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West” – called it a stark appraisal. The analysis will be part of a broader meeting at the White House on Thursday about an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate.
The official and others spoke to The Associated Press on condition they not be identified because the report remains classified.
The findings suggests that the network that launched the most devastating terror attack on U.S. soil has been able to regroup despite nearly six years of bombings, war and other tactics aimed at dismantling it.
The threat assessment focuses on the terror group’s safe haven in Pakistan and makes a range of observations about the threat posed to the United States and its allies, officials said.
Counterterrorism officials have been increasingly concerned about al-Qaida’s recent operations. This week, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he had a “gut feeling” that the United States faced a heightened risk of attack this summer.
Still, numerous government officials say they know of no specific, credible threat of a new attack on U.S. soil.
Al-Qaida is “considerably operationally stronger than a year ago” and has “regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001,” the counterterrorism official said, paraphrasing the report’s conclusions. “They are showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States.”
The group also has created “the most robust training program since 2001, with an interest in using European operatives,” the official quoted the report as saying.
At the same time, this official said, the report speaks of “significant gaps in intelligence” so U.S. authorities may be ignorant of potential or planned attacks.
John Kringen, who heads the CIA’s analysis directorate, echoed the concerns about al-Qaida’s resurgence during testimony and conversations with reporters at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday.
“They seem to be fairly well settled into the safe haven and the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan,” Kringen testified. “We see more training. We see more money. We see more communications. We see that activity rising.”
The threat assessment comes as the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies prepare a National Intelligence Estimate focusing on threats to the United States. A senior intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity while the high-level analysis was being completed, said the document has been in the works for roughly two years.