A decade after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Al-Qaeda is deeply isolated, but mutating and still aims to mount a devastating attack, US President Barack Obama's top security anti-terrorism advisor said on Friday.
John Brennan, the White House counter-terrorism and homeland security advisor, said the radical Islamist organization's senior leadership "is increasingly hunkered down in its safe haven in Pakistan's tribal regions."
Speaking at a security conference in New York, Brennan said Al-Qaeda was at its "weakest point since 2001" and that its jihadist ideology had been "rejected by the overwhelming majority of Muslims."
Popular revolts against authoritarian, mostly secular governments across the Arab world, he noted, have barely featured Al-Qaeda.
"One of the things that is most notable about what's going on the Middle East is that Al-Qaeda has not been anywhere near the forefront of any of these activities. It is a populist and for the most part secular phenomenon," Brennan said at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
However, according to the White House expert, Al-Qaeda "retains the intent and capability to attack the US homeland as well as our allies" and is mutating into an increasingly unpredictable presence -- including on US soil.
"Groups and individuals have sprung up in places like Pakistan, Yemen and North Africa," he said. "We have also seen this problem begin to manifest itself here at home. A very small but increasing number of individuals here in the United States have become captivated by these violent causes."
Brennan warned that Al-Qaeda "is still determined to carry out a strategic attack against the United States."
Such an attack "would have grave and major consequences on our country in terms of loss of life and damage to our economy."