Reid: New Intelligence Report Underscores Need For Overhaul Of Bush Administration Efforts On Terrorism, Change In Iraq Strategy

Washington, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today in response to publication of the unclassified key judgments of a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on “The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland”: 

“The unclassified summary of the National Intelligence Estimate released today leads me to two conclusions: one, the Bush Administration’s national security strategy has failed in its most basic responsibility – to capture or kill Usama Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, the men who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, and eliminate Al Qaeda as a threat to the homeland; and two, there is even greater urgency to the need to change course in Iraq.

“The NIE is just the latest report assessing that Al Qaeda has rebuilt its strength to nearly pre-9/11 levels and that the greatest threat we face to the US homeland comes from Al Qaeda’s senior leadership apparently based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions, not from Iraq.  Since 9/11, terrorist attacks around the world have dramatically increased in number, Al Qaeda has rebuilt safehavens, and new extremist groups have been inspired by Al Qaeda to further extremist causes and conduct deadly attacks.

“The NIE also demonstrates that the current situation in Iraq has helped to energize Al Qaeda.  Changing our strategy in Iraq and narrowing our military mission to countering Al Qaeda terrorism – as a bipartisan majority in the Senate now favors – would be the single greatest thing we could do to undermine Al Qaeda’s ability to use Iraq as a recruiting and propaganda tool fueling the growth of regional terrorist groups.

“It is a travesty that Osama bin Laden remains at large nearly six years after the 9/11 attacks, and that the Bush Administration and most Congressional Republicans remain stubbornly wedded to a flawed strategy in Iraq.  We need to adapt, not stand still.  I urge the Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans to work with Democrats to overhaul and improve our counterterrorism and Iraq strategies.”

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Administration officials have discussed al-Qaeda’s alarming new safe haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. These and other assessments by experts explain why it is imperative for our nation’s security to redeploy from the Iraqi civil war and re-focus on fighting terrorism: 

John Kringen, Head of CIA’s Analysis Directorate, Says al-Qaeda Has Terrorist Safe-Haven along Afghanistan-Pakistan Border.   “Sooner or later you have to quit permitting them to have a safe haven” along the Afghan-Pakistani border, he told the House committee.” [AP, 7/11/07]

Iraq War Czar Lt. General Lute Admits Al-Qaeda Has Sanctuary on Afghanistan-Pakistan Border.  “I don’t think there’s any question that the relative sanctuary for, especially, Taliban senior leadership in Pakistan, today, in the border regions of Pakistan, is a major factor in the ability of the Taliban to be resurgent and probably quite active military this spring in Afghanistan.  There’s no question that that sanctuary exists and that it’s a major asset for the Taliban.” [Senate Armed Services Committee, 3/1/07]

National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell Says Al Qaeda in Afghanistan/Pakistan is Much More Likely to Guide the Next Attack on the U.S. Than Terrorists in Iraq:

  • Senator Jack Reed (D-RI): “Well, the question would be: If you had to establish a probability of a successful attack being organized and directed against the United States, would it emanate from Pakistan, with this newly revised Al Qaida leadership, or would it come out of Iraq?”
  • National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell: “My belief is the attack most likely would be planned and come out of the leadership in Pakistan.” [Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, 2/27/07]

Al-Qaeda Gaining Strength, Has Sanctuary on Afghanistan-Pakistan Border.  “Six years after the Bush administration declared war on al-Qaeda, the terrorist network is gaining strength and has established a safe haven in remote tribal areas of western Pakistan for training and planning attacks, according to a new Bush administration intelligence report to be discussed today at a White House meeting.” [Washington Post, 7/11/07]

Intelligence Officials Belief the Overall Risk from Al-Qaeda is Rising. “Even without seeing indicators of a specific attack, officials said, they do believe that the overall risk from Al Qaeda is rising. The U.S. attacks on Al Qaeda’s former base in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 severely disrupted Osama bin Laden’s network. But since then, Al Qaeda has rebuilt its headquarters in Pakistan and is more dangerous than at any time since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a new classified threat assessment.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/12/07]

Unclassified Summary of New National Intelligence Assessment on the Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland Says Al Qaeda Has Regained Strength And That Current Course In Iraq Is Helping to Fuel Its Recruiting and Propaganda

  • “We assess the group [Al Qaeda] has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safehaven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership.”
  • “We assess that its [Al Qaeda’s] association with AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.” [Unclassified Key Judgments, NIE on The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland, July 2007]