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'Al Qaeda can be reduced to a mere propaganda arm in 2 yr'

world Updated: Sep 16, 2011 09:17 IST

Observing that this year alone core of al Qaeda has lost eight of its top 20 leaders, a top Pentagon official said with the current level of counter terrorism operations, the core of this terrorist outfit could be reduced to a mere propaganda arm.

"Assuming sustained counter-terrorism (CT) operations against the group, within 18 to 24 months, core al Qaeda's cohesion and operational capabilities could be degraded to the point that the group could fragment and exist mostly as a propaganda arm, and power could devolve to regional affiliates," Michael Vickers, the under secretary of defense for intelligence, said.

"The strategic defeat of al Qaeda is now for the first time within our reach," he said, adding the operational dismantlement of core al Qaeda is only another step, albeit a huge one, toward the group's eventual strategic defeat.

"We likewise may not be done with the operational dismantlement of all of the group's regional affiliates within the next two years. But the operational dismantlement of core al Qaeda will markedly reduce the threat to the US homeland, and it will put us much closer to al Qaeda's eventual defeat as the vanguard of global jihadist movement," Vickers said at a conference early this week at National Defense University.

He said the recently released national counter terrorism strategy is focused very tightly on the network that poses the most direct and significant threat to the US - al Qaeda, its affiliates, and its adherents.

"It is not a war on terror, but rather a war with al Qaeda. Our goal, as President Obama has stated, is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, and prevent the group's return. We seek nothing less than the utter destruction of this evil that calls itself al Qaeda," he said.

The Pentagon official said three years of intense counter terrorism pressure have taken an enormous toll on the group's leadership, its rank and file operatives, and those who provide it sanctuary.