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CIA: Anti-Terror Campaign Entering New, Difficult Phase - 2002-03-19

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency is warning that the al-Qaida terrorist group remains a threat, despite a U.S.-led global crackdown on terrorism. CIA Director George Tenet assessed the world-wide terrorist threat in testimony to U.S. lawmakers.

Mr. Tenet said anti-terrorism efforts have led to the arrests of more than 1,300 extremists, believed linked to the al-Qaeda network, in more than 70 countries.

But in an appearance before the Senate Armed Services committee Tuesday, he said there are al-Qaida leaders still at large who are reorganizing to resume terrorist activities.

Although the largest U.S.-led military ground operation of the war in Afghanistan is over, the CIA Director said insurgents are still present in the country near the border with Pakistan.

"In the eastern provinces up along the Pakistani border there are still pockets of al-Qaida and Taleban that we still have to get after. So it is not done. You are entering into another phase here that actually is more difficult because you are probably looking at smaller units that intend to really operate against you in a classical insurgency format," Mr. Tenet said.

Mr. Tenet also spoke about links between al-Qaida and Iraq which President Bush has labelled part of an 'axis of evil' along with North Korea and Iran.

"Baghdad has a long history of supporting terrorists, altering its targets to reflect changing priorities and goals," he said. "It has also had contacts with al-Qaida. Their ties may be limited by divergent ideologies, but the two sides mutual antipathy toward the United States and the Saudi royal family suggest the tactical cooperation between them is possible."

Mr. Tenet said he believes Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein continues to pursue a program to develop nuclear weapons.