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CIA: Al Qaeda in Iraq on 'Verge of Defeat'


Al Qaeda in Iraq on 'verge of defeat,' CIA chief says


Friday, November 14th 2008, 3:55 AM

WASHINGTON - Al Qaeda no longer sees Iraq as the central front in its war on the West, CIA Director Michael Hayden said Thursday.

"Al Qaeda in Iraq is on the verge of strategic defeat," Hayden said in a major speech on the continued threat posed by Osama Bin Laden's thugs.

"Today, the flow of money, weapons, and foreign fighters into Iraq is greatly diminished, and Al Qaeda senior leaders no longer point to it as the central battlefield," the spy chief told the Atlantic Council.

The politically astute official's remarks - and his argument the Afghan-Pakistan border is now ground zero in the global jihad - is in sync with President-elect Barack Obama.

The Bush appointee's remarks sharply departed from the current President's talking points, and came as Obama is deciding if he wants Hayden to stay or go.

On Sept. 9, Bush said, "Al Qaeda leaders have repeatedly declared that Iraq is the central front of their war with America."

Hayden - who is known to want to keep his job - also repeated his view that Bin Laden is too bent on staying alive to oversee his henchmen's plots against the West.

"He appears to be largely isolated from the day-to-day operations of the organization he leads," the CIA chief explained.

Of immediate worry is that Pakistan's lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan is a safe haven.

"Virtually every major terrorist threat my agency is aware of has threads back to the tribal areas," Hayden said. Intelligence officials say any future U.S. attacks will have been planned there.

The CIA is engaging in a massive offensive in those areas. Unmanned drones have fired missiles 20 times since August.

A rising fear is that Iraq insurgents will "bleed out" to commit terror elsewhere. "Iraq [insurgent] veterans have been involved in planning attacks in Europe and the U.S.," he said.

Entry #515


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