Intelligence experts: al Qaeda in Iraq 'poses little danger' to US
Though al Qaeda may be the "formidable" threat to US forces in Iraq, intelligence officials feel that the Qaeda branch there "poses little danger to the security of the U.S. homeland," reports the Washington Post.
"Attacking the United States clearly remains on bin Laden's agenda. But the likelihood that such an attack would be launched from Iraq, many experts contend, has sharply diminished over the past year," writes Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus.
Al Qaeda's Iraq operation is now "overwhelmingly Iraqi" and is "focused on the struggle against the Shiite majority in Iraq."
Excerpts from the report follow:
Although AQI's top leader, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, is thought to be Egyptian, most members "are Iraqis, both in terms of leaders and foot soldiers," said one counterterrorism official. He and other officials estimated that Iraqis make up 90 percent of AQI's several thousand fighters.
"In a year, AQI went from being a major insurgent group, but one of several, to basically being the dominant force in the Sunni insurgency," said terrorism consultant Evan F. Kohlmann. "It managed to convince a lot of large, influential Sunni groups to work together under its banner -- groups that I never would have imagined," Kohlmann said. In November, many of the groups joined AQI in declaring an Islamic State of Iraq.
In congressional testimony late last month, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell indicated that, despite bin Laden's rhetoric, it isn't necessarily true that al-Qaeda sees its future in Iraq. "I wouldn't go so far as to say al-Qaeda would necessarily believe that," McConnell said. "They want to reestablish their base, and their objective could be in Afghanistan."
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