A senior U.S. counter-terrorism official says the al-Qaida terror network remains
a significant threat even though it is under what he calls catastrophic stress.
The U.S. Ambassador at Large for Counterterrorism Cofer Black says al-Qaida
continues to attract new recruits, even though two thirds of its leadership
has been killed or captured since the attacks on the United States on September
Mr. Black told British radio the terrorist network led by Osama bin Laden
is going through a generational change.
"The al-Qaida of the 9-11 period is under catastrophic stress," he said. "They
are being hunted down. Their days are numbered. The clock is ticking. The next
group of concern would be, I would say, a generation younger. They are influenced
by what they see on TV. They are influenced by a misrepresentation, I think,
of the facts. They tend to be sort of long on radicalism and comparatively
short on training."
Mr. Black has had long experience in fighting al-Qaida. He was the station
chief of the Central Intelligence Agency in Khartoum in 1995 when Osama bin
Laden was based there. During that time, Mr. Black was the target of a pre-empted
al-Qaida assassination attempt.
Mr. Black told BBC he was intimately involved in the decisions that delayed
and canceled several Washington-bound flights from London earlier this month
because of the threat of terrorist hijacking.
He said he understands the inconvenience that was caused, but there was no
alternative and it would have been irresponsible to ignore, what he called,
clear intelligence signals.