The al-Qaida terrorist organization, even with the loss of key leaders and diminished influence in Iraq, has in the last year recruited and trained “dozens” of people for attacks in the West, including the U.S., a top American intelligence official said.
The U.S. intelligence community last year said the group “was at least trying” to recruit, train and deploy operatives for such attacks, said Ted Gistaro, the senior U.S. analyst on al-Qaida, in a speech Tuesday in Washington.
“We have seen in the past year additional evidence that they have actually succeeded,” Gistaro said. “There are probably dozens of operatives the organization has identified for operations. They speak western languages, they have western travel documents and experienced living and acting in the West.”
The recruits were taken to sanctuaries in northwest Pakistan “for training and indoctrinating and, in some cases, redeploying them,” he said. Most are “probably” still in Pakistan or “to some extent in Europe.”
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“We do not know of any who have come back into the United States,” he said.
Gistaro is the U.S. intelligence officer for transnational threats.
In his speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, he went further than Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell in describing al-Qaida's recruitment of operatives to attack the West.
McConnell in February told the Senate Intelligence Committee that “we have seen an influx of new Western recruits” since mid-2006 into Pakistan's ungoverned tribal areas along its border with Afghanistan.
McConnell said the group was “improving” its methods for identifying, training and placing operatives in preparation for an attack on the U.S.