Doc: State Department Offers Alarming New Assessment of al Qaeda Network

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Al Qaeda retains significant operational capability to stage major terrorist attacks, has shown an ability to be highly adaptive, and is "quickly evolving new methods in response to countermeasures," the State Department warns in its annual report on terrorism.

The report, which charts a sharp spike in terrorism incidents worldwide, particularly in Iraq, also describes today's al Qaeda as a "global action network" that sees itself increasingly as a "transnational guerrilla movement."

Al Qaeda's efforts to spur homegrown terrorism complement the group's efforts to do more "expeditionary" terrorism, where operatives are dispatched to Europe or the United States to stage attacks, according to the report.

Other key concerns: al Qaeda's improved "propaganda warfare capacity" and emerging evidence of a systematic "terrorist conveyor belt" where al Qaeda leaders exploit grievances of alienated immigrant communities to convert some of them into new supporters or operatives. The assessment contrasts with descriptions offered in the past year or two by U.S. officials of al Qaeda's leadership as battered and isolated.

--Kevin Whitelaw