CIA Director says al Qaeda Much Weaker in Southeast Asia

The terrorist network is on the run in Indonesia, but is getting stronger in Middle East and Africa.

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CIA Director Michael Hayden said today that a once-feared Indonesian al Qaeda affiliate, Jemaah Islamayih, has increasingly been disrupted in its terrorist actions.

"The group's capabilities and confidence are simply not what they were three years ago," he told the Atlantic Council.

In Africa and the Middle East, however, Hayden warned that al Qaeda is spreading its influence even without the day-to-day involvement of its leader Osama bin Laden, and the terrorist network remains the single biggest threat to the United States. "If there is a major strike on this country, it will bear the fingerprints of al Qaeda," the CIA director said.

In praising Indonesia, Hayden called the Indonesian government's recent execution of three men who bombed a Bali hotel in 2001 a "dramatic step that underscores Jakarta's commitment" to the fight against terrorism.

Hayden credited counterterrorism efforts by domestic law enforcement for driving much of the success. "While JI still exists today, its once-robust relationship with al Qaeda is gone, its plots are increasingly detected and disrupted, and hundreds of its leaders and operatives have been captured or killed by the Indonesian national police."

There are also promising signs from the Philippines, Hayden said. The terrorist ambitions of JI's Philippines-based ally, the Abu Sayyaf Group, "have been similarly degraded by persistent pressure from Philippine authorities."

  • Click here to read about how the Indonesians have brought an al Qaeda affiliate to the brink of defeat.