Playing down an assessment by one of its senior officials that Osama bin Laden is "impotent", the US has said that while the Al-Qaeda leader may have been weakened, the terror network which has found safe haven in countries like Pakistan is indeed a "serious" threat.
"What the NIE said is it (Al-Qaeda) is growing in strength in some areas within the tribal lands of Pakistan because there had been a growth in terms of training bases," the White House Spokesman Tony Snow said.
NIE also noted that globally many of the Al-Qaeda assets and operations had been degraded and the public opinion, especially in the Arab world, was turning against it, he said.
Snow was responding to a question about the characterisation by the President's top Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend that bin Laden is impotent.
"So, it's a complex picture. What you have in the case of Laden is somebody who does not have the ability to strut around a training camp the way he was able to do before 9/11. He is a man in hiding," he said.
"Nevertheless, Al-Qaeda is a serious organisation. It is a key threat to American security. We continue to regard it as such and as Frances pointed out there continue to be very active efforts against it," he added.
"Al-Qaeda clearly was trying to make a difference in Iraq. But what has happened is the demonstration of US seriousness has had an impact. Al-Qaeda in fact does not have the kind of support that it used to have," he said.
"So, when you talk about the growing strength of Al-Qaeda, that is a reaction to the fact that there were safe havens in some areas in Pakistan," he said.