Posted on April 29 2012 – 5:00 PM – Posted by: Doug Brady
WASHINGTON – A year after the Navy SEAL raid that killed Usama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks is essentially gone but its affiliates remain a threat to America, U.S. counterterrorist officials say.
Core Al Qaeda’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, still aspires to attack the U.S., but his Pakistan-based group is scrambling to survive, under fire from CIA drone strikes and lying low for fear of another U.S. raid. That has lessened the threat of another complex attack like a nuclear dirty bomb or a biological weapon, the officials say.
Al Qaeda’s loyal offshoots are still dangerous, especially Yemen’s Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. While not yet able to carry out complex attacks inside the U.S., such groups are capable of hitting Western targets overseas and are building armies and expertise while plotting violence, according to senior U.S. counterterrorist officials who briefed reporters Friday.
“Each will seek opportunities to strike Western interests in its operating area, but each group will have different intent and ability to execute those plans,” said Robert Cardillo, a deputy director at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The other officials were authorized to speak only on condition of anonymity.
The shift from a single, deadly group to a more amorphous threat may not seem much of an improvement. But the U.S. believes that the bin Laden raid and continued U.S. counterterrorist action have reduced the chance of a sophisticated, multipronged attack on the U.S. like the attacks of Sept. 11 or the deadly bombings in Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005.