The chief of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency says al-Qaida is losing influence in the Middle East and is on the defensive in other parts of the world.
Michael Hayden told The Washington Post newspaper that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is losing the ability to exploit the war in Iraq to recruit more members. A CIA study two years ago concluded the war had become a propaganda and marketing tool for the terrorist group.
Hayden cautioned that al-Qaida remains a serious threat but said it has suffered a "near strategic defeat" in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. He said the terror group has faced ideological setbacks as much of the Islamic world rejects its radical form of Islam.
The intelligence chief also said there has been success against the terror network's suspected haven in the lawless tribal regions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Hayden said Iran is undermining progress in Iraq, saying it is, in his words, "the policy of the Iranian government, approved at the highest levels of that government, to facilitate the killing of American and other coalition forces."
But Hayden said he is concerned that any progress against al-Qaida could be halted or reversed because of a return to the mindset that existed before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
He also said U.S. lawmakers and many in the media are focused less on the threat posed by terrorists, and more on the tactics used to deal with the threat - a reference to controversial harsh interrogation techniques that have been used on suspected terrorists.