Al-Qaeda gaining in wealth and power

Al-Qaeda in Iraq already has its hands full, but US intelligence officials say the militant group’s mentors in Pakistan now want to use its formidable resources for attacks on the United States.

The war in Iraq has transformed the Al-Qaeda affiliate into a battle-hardened organization with piles of money, sophisticated recruiting networks and some of the world’s most experienced and innovative bomb makers, officials and analysts say.

A US intelligence estimate released this week said Al-Qaeda “core,” the parent organization led by Osama bin Laden, “will seek to leverage” those capabilities for attacks on the United States.

It offered no evidence that Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is actively involved in such plots, however, and intelligence and military officials say most of its resources are currently tied down in Iraq.

But Ted Gistaro, the assessment’s author, told reporters this week that Al-Qaeda typically tries to tap into its affiliates’ networks, recruitment pool and financial resources.

“Certainly when it comes to finances, we’ve seen Al-Qaeda pull benefit from the relationship with AQI,” he said. “And the concern is: what other parts of AQI might Al-Qaeda core try to leverage or siphon off to bolster its own capabilities?”

Analysts say the concern raised in the assessment is new, and may reflect undisclosed intelligence of messages from Al-Qaeda core urging AQI to carry out operations in Europe or the United States.

In late April, the Pentagon revealed it had captured a senior Al-Qaeda operative, Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi, as he was trying to reach Iraq to manage Al-Qaeda operations and possibly plot attacks in the west.

“Al-Qaeda in Pakistan is clearly trying to inspire AQI to use its people and resources to mount attacks where they want,” said a US counter-terrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

AQI offers two things: money and an elaborate recruiting network, said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer now with the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

“The Al-Qaeda operation and the insurgency in Iraq is so popular in the Muslim world that there is pretty good evidence that AQ in Iraq is awash in money, that it has more than it can spend,” he said.

Its recruiting networks “can also be reverse engineered so you could use them to train someone, send them back to their home, and then use that person for an operation against a target in Europe, in the Middle East, and conceivably, if they have the right passports, against the United States,” he said.

No major attacks have occurred in the United States since September 11, 2001, and Al-Qaeda faces an array of security measures erected since then.

But the director of national intelligence, Michael McConnell, said this week that Al-Qaeda is “working as hard as they can to position trained operatives here in the United States.”

Recruits with the right language skills and background to fit into the US population are being brought to Al-Qaeda’s safe haven in Pakistan for training, he said.

Al-Qaeda has used Pakistanis with British passports for operations in Britain, and is trying to recruit operatives with French and Belgian passports through its affiliates in North Africa.

Intelligence officials said they worry about Al-Qaeda operatives entering the United States through a “European gateway.”

But White House Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend told US television Sunday that the United States is pleased with Pakistan’s cooperation in helping to forestall such a strike.

“We believe Pakistan has been a very good ally in the war on terrorism,” she told CNN.

“Musharraf has been the subject of numerous assassination attempts. Al-Qaeda is trying to kill him. They get what the problem is, and we’re working with them to deny Al-Qaeda and the Taliban the safe haven” on the Afghanistan border.

A top US commander said it would be difficult for Al-Qaeda in Iraq to export violence outside of Iraq for now because of the blows dealt by recent US offensives.

“There might be people who have come in here for short periods of time that were foreigners that left here that might try to conduct some attacks,” said Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, the number two US commander in Iraq.

“There’s an attempt here (in Iraq) by the leadership of Al-Qaeda to create a training area and a place where they can recruit and train people in the Middle East, and that’s why they would like us to fail here,” he said.


  1. Ted Remington

    I am reminded of a cartoon I saw some years ago. A man with a walker is toppling sideways, and a chicken is running out of his shadow yelling, “This guy is falling. This guy is falling.”

    I now envision the guy with the walker as Dumbya.

    They have nothing to cite in the way of good intelligence so they continue to prey on the American public’s lack thereof.




  2. ekaton

    40 thousand a year die on our highways.
    11 thousand a year are killed by individuals wielding hand guns. And ho hum, right? So, let’s say some “al qaeda type” through some despicable and nefarious act manages to murder, oh, say, a few hundred U.S. citizens somewhere inside the U.S. This will righteously be seen as the truly horrid act that it was. And it definitely will not be a ho hum moment. Again, for the sake of argument, say its the first “al qaeda” attack since 911. Not a bad record. Six years. 240,000 vehicular deaths. 66 thousand deaths by handgun. 300 terrorist attack victims. It may be likely that more people were killed by lightning in the same time frame. This means good police work and good work by certain intelligence agencies has held off new attacks since 911, not attacking Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan might have been “justified” if any war is justified, had we allowed our special forces and seals to extract bin laden to be held for trial. No war needed. Just good police work. Surgical action based on good intelligence.

    But there is all that OIL in Iraq isn’t there? But little “democracy” so democracy had to be brought to Iraq no matter how many lies associating Iraq with bin laden and 911 it took to justify an invasion of a sovereign state. Such action can do nothing BUT create “insurgents” and new branches of “al qaeda”. bin laden himself could not have asked for a better recruiter than the US and its militant foreign policy. It has even been reported that Saudi Sunnis have been fighting in Iraq. These would be “insurgents” formed by “malcontents” chafing under USA supported but undemocratic monarchical rule in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, our good ally, the monarchy you understand, no “democracy” required. Hmmm? Oh. Yes. The Saudis have more oil than even Iraq and Iran combined. So show some respect you peasant ingrates!

    And why are the southern and northern borders left wide open if we are supposed to worry about “al qaeda types” trying to sneak into the U.S.? Why isn’t our navy patrolling our coastlines instead Iran’s? Just asking. We all have to keep asking all the questions the puppy dog press seems afraid to pose. Why aren’t our marines and soldiers all at home where they belong in case we need them to repel a foreign invader?

    Kent Shaw aka ekaton

    PS — Go Cindy go!

  3. a.knight

    I do not doubt that al Qaeda has been striving to get agents into the United States, but the manner it is being portrayed by the Bush Administration, indicates to me that the release of this information was motivated by a desire to not look at the failure that stares back at them in the mirror; an attempt to foist off responsibility anywhere but on their own shoulders.

    On the July 22, 2007 NBC Meet The Press show, Admiral Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, stated:

    “Following the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, about two-thirds of al-Qaeda’s, not only leadership, but their soldiers, the foot soldiers, had been eliminated. And, at that point in time, that was an accurate assessment of where we were.

    Now, what happened? What’s different? What changed? In Pakistan, where they’re enjoying a safe haven, the government of Pakistan chose to try a political solution. The political solution meant a peace treaty with a region that’s never been governed—not governed from the outside, not governed by Pakistan. The opposite occurred. Instead of pushing al-Qaeda out, the people who live in the—these federally- administered tribal areas, rather than pushing al-Qaeda out, they made a safe haven for training and recruiting. And so, in that period of time, al-Qaeda has been able to regain some of its momentum. The leadership’s intact, they have operational planners, and they have safe haven. The thing they’re missing are operatives inside the United States. So that’s the difference between last year and this year, in, in our assessment.”

    Yet over two years previously, on the May 8, 2005 Meet The Press, with the guest Gary Schroen, former senior CIA agent who had been in Afghanistan at Tora Bora, and was promoting his book, “First In: How seven CIA officers opened the war on terrorism in Afghanistan“, this discussion took place:

    Russert: In December of 2001, the battle of Tora Bora. This is what you write. “In early 2002, in the immediate aftermath of the battle of Tora Bora and the subsequent escape of Osama bin Laden and his chief lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahari, CIA and specially trained U.S. military Special Operations units began to organize teams in the provincial areas east and south of Kabul, along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.”

    You have no doubt that bin Laden escaped at Tora Bora?

    Schroen: No doubt at all. When the first film–videotape that was made–that he made afterwards shows him that he was holding his left side and was probably wounded there in the battle, but every bit of information we had at the time indicated that he had escaped and moved into the Waziristan area which is south of Peshawar.

    Russert: How did he get away?

    Schroen: We had done–followed the same lead we had taken since September of ’01 in defeating the Taliban. We were attacking with U.S. military forces against the al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, and we hired local tribal leaders to guard the escape routes into Pakistan. Unfortunately, many of those people proved to be loyal to bin Laden and sympathizers with the Taliban and they allowed the key guys to escape.

    Russert: In the heat of the presidential campaign in 2004, John Kerry as part of his stump speech in effect would say things like this. Let’s watch.

    (Videotape, October 30, 2004):
    Sen. John Kerry, (D-MA): As I have said for two years now, when Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, it was wrong to outsource the job of capturing them to Afghan warlords who a week earlier were fighting against us.
    (End videotape)

    Russert: Should we have had more U.S. troops in Afghanistan circling Tora Bora to prevent his escape?

    Schroen: In hindsight that would have been ideal. We fought a special operations war. It was CIA and Army Green Berets on the ground directing the bombing campaign. It was only late in the campaign that U.S. ground forces came in, and the evolution, I think, simply we didn’t take it far enough. If we’d have had one more battle after Tora Bora, we probably would have gotten it right.

    Russert: Again, in October of 2004, in the presidential campaign, after John Kerry made those charges, General Tommy Franks offered this observation. “We don’t know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001. …Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp.”

    You just disagree with that?

    Schroen: I absolutely do, yes.

    Russert: And President Bush and Vice President Cheney all quoted General Franks, saying: “We don’t know if bin Laden was at Tora Bora.” You have no doubt.

    Schroen: I have no doubt that he was there.

    McConnell simply glossed over a 5 year period beginning December 2001 at Tora Bora, and emphasised Musharraf’s attempted political solution as being some sort of turning point in a new al Qaeda resurgence. This Administration let our true enemy escape, so they could Wage War Upon Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the attack on September 11, 2001, and now arrogantly refuses to accept their own culpability for al Qaeda’s current capabilities.

  4. gene

    Yep, its own its way, another staged terrorist attack so Bushidiot can become our beloved dick-tator.

  5. ekaton

    From the article: But White House Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend told US television Sunday that the United States is pleased with Pakistan’s cooperation in helping to forestall such a strike.

    “We believe Pakistan has been a very good ally in the war on terrorism,” she told CNN.

    And once again, by fate or by design or by sheer stupidity, the U.S. finds itself supporting a dictator who took power via military coup. The dictator keeps promising results he can’t deliver. The citizens begin to fester under a tyrant. This will of course further inflame Islamist elements. And this is how we work “to spread democracy”?

    — Kent Shaw aka ekaton

  6. Bill Robinson

    A Revolutionary Idea.
    I know how we can stop these people from committing terrorist acts in America. We need to elect Osama bin Laden President of the USA. He won’t attack his own people. We can then end all activities in the Middle East, bring our troops home, and get down to making this country a better place which it will immediately be without Bush/Cheney anyway.
    Once he is in office Os, as those other cave dwellers call him, will see the greatness of the American People and how wonderful this country really is. Os will govern with kindness and compassion, a trait common to all Muslims when you do exactly what they want you to when they want you to do it. Os will bring us together and unite us as never before (even if he has to kill a few million of us to do it.) Os will safeguard the Constitution by replacing it with the Koran. The Declaration of Independence will be declared invalid and we can suck again on the teat of England. Os will ban all terrorist activity on our soil, and will simply export it to a more appropriate place, like Antartica. Peace will reign in America, at least in between the Muzzahjadin’s call to prayer 5 times a day.
    Os Is! Os Is! Os Is! can be his new campaign slogan.
    Start chanting and practice kneeling and bowing. At least we won’t have terrorists acts like those about to be perpetrated by Bush/Cheney. And if you really want to make a ton of money, sell the stock of Gillette short.
    Os Is! Os Is! Os Is!

  7. JoyfulC

    Does al qaida offer any sort of investment package? It seems like the way things are going lately, it’s a smart bet.