"The CIA assesses that, 10 years after the 9/11 attacks, the United States continues to face a serious threat from al-Qaida and its worldwide network of affiliates and sympathizers," even though the terrorist organization "has been weakened," CIA Director David Petraeus told Congress today in his first testimony since taking over the top job at the intelligence agency.
In a statement prepared for a hearing held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Petraeus says that the killing of Osama bin Laden last May and other efforts to disrupt al-Qaida have dealt the network a serious blow. But, he said:
"We must recognize that the initiative has been shifting somewhat to al-Qaida's affiliates and sympathizers outside South Asia. Much work remains to be done. Our nation faces a serious threat from these groups, particularly from those based in Yemen, home to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and there are other al-Qaida affiliates that present significant threats as well."
In many ways, Petraeus' testimony echoed testimony last year from then-CIA Director Leon Panetta (who is now the secretary of defense) and other intelligence officials, who also warned about the al-Qaida networks in Yemen and other parts of the world — and cautioned that the terrorists still wish to strike U.S. interests here and abroad.
Bin Laden's death, Petraeus tesetified, "dealt a stunning blow to al-Qaida."
But, he added, "in decline, with its core leadership having sustained significant losses, al-Qaida and its affiliates still pose a very real threat that will require our energy, focus, creativity, and dedication for quite a while. Al-Qaida's operatives remain committed to attacks against US citizens at home and overseas, both to demonstrate strength in the wake of Bin Ladin's death and to continue pursuit of one of al-Qaida's principal goals — forcing the United States and a number of our allies to retreat from the world stage."
Last week, NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reported for All Things Considered about how al-Qaida "has morphed" since Sept. 11, 2001:
"To be sure, al-Qaida is suffering because of U.S. drone attacks, assassinations and recent arrests, he says, but the group is adapting. 'Even while al-Qaida central, or the core al-Qaida group, is substantially weakened compared to what it was even two or three years ago, the problem is that the periphery, those affiliates, are arguably even stronger today than they have ever been,' says Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and professor at Georgetown University.
The Associated Press has more about today's hearing.