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Friday, November 17, 2006

Al Qaida 'challenges US interests'


Washington: Al Qaida is reinvigorating its operations from havens on the Afghan-Pakistani border, American intelligence officials said.

It poses a growing challenge to US interests in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the officials said.

Five years after the September 11 attacks and the fall of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the network led by Osama Bin Laden has replaced leaders killed or captured by the United States and its allies with new seasoned militants.

"It has shown resilience," CIA Director Michael Hayden told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"The loss of a series of Al Qaida leaders since 9/11 has been substantial. But it's also been mitigated by what is, frankly, a pretty deep bench of low-ranking personnel capable of stepping up to assume leadership positions," Hayden said.

"These new leaders average over 40 years of age and two decades of involvement in global jihadism."

Hayden was testifying at a Senate hearing on Iraq and Afghanistan along with Army Lt Gen Michael Maples, director of the Pentagon's Defence Intelligence Agency.

Sectarian fighting between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, and increasing attacks by Al Qaida-backed Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, worry lawmakers about the direction of US policy in the Middle East and South Asia.
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