During a recent interview with the Washington Post, CIA Director Michael Hayden said that al Qaeda is “essentially defeated in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and on the defensive throughout much of the rest of the world” including the areas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. “On balance, we’re doing pretty well,” Hayden said. The Post even described Hayden’s view as a “strikingly upbeat assessment.”
But Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a letter to Hayden that he is “surprised and troubled” by his comments to the Post, adding that his assessment of al Qaeda’s worldwide strength is at odds with intelligence briefings to Captiol Hill:
The positions attributed to you are not consistent with assessments that have been provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee over the past year. If the Intelligence Community’s assessment of al-Qa’ida has changed, I would expect the Committee to be made aware of these changes immediately. If the assessment has not changed, then I ask that you explain why you would portray the terrorist movement as “on the defensive throughout much of the rest of the world, including in its presumed haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.” In fact, I have seen nothing, including classified intelligence reporting, that would lead me to this conclusion.
Moreover, in a speech delivered last Thursday, “posited as a presidential intelligence briefing delivered on Jan. 21, 2009,” Principal Director of National Intelligence Donald Kerr’s assessment of al-Qaeda “seemed at odds” with Hayden’s, the Post reports:
Pakistan’s “inward” political focus and failure to control the tribal territories where al-Qaeda maintains a haven, he said, is “the number one thing we worry about” … in response to a question, he said that “we don’t know enough” about what is happening in Pakistan.
“One of the concerns we have is that as Pakistan looks inward,” the western tribal areas “will be more hospitable to those who would strike us and less hospitable to us in trying to root out that problem,” Kerr said.
The Post added that Kerr’s speech “contrasted with more optimistic administration forecasts of rapprochement among Iraq’s political forces and a possible Middle East peace agreement in the next eight months.”