U.S. Intel Head James Clapper on Greatest Threats in 2012

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Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

Although high-profile al Qaeda cleric and recruiter Anwar Awlaki has been killed, the intelligence chief notes in his testimony that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group to which Awlaki belonged, remains dangerous.

"We judge AQAP remains the node most likely to attempt transnational attacks. [Awlaki's] death probably reduces, at least temporarily, AQAP's ability to plan transnational attacks, but many of those responsible for implementing plots, including bomb makers, financiers, and facilitators, remain and could advance plots."

Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)

"We assess that AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) will remain focused on overthrowing the Shia-led government in Baghdad in favor of a Sunni-led Islamic caliphate. It probably will attempt attacks primarily on local Iraqi targets, including government institutions, Iraqi Security Forces personnel, Shia civilians, and recalcitrant Sunnis, such as members of the Sons of Iraq, and will seek to rebuild support among the Sunni population…. The Iraqi Government is positioned to keep violence near current levels through 2012, although periodic spikes are likely. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are capable of planning and executing security operations, and Iraqi counter-terrorism forces have demonstrated they are capable of targeting remaining terrorists and insurgents."

Al Shabaab, Somalia

Clapper said the main issue concerning the al Qaeda-linked terror group al Shabaab in east Africa is with American-born fighters who have joined the group.

"Members of the group -- particularly a foreign fighter cadre that includes U.S. passport holders -- may also have aspirations to attack inside the United States. However, we lack insight into concrete operational plans outside the Horn of Africa."

Homegrown Threat

Clapper said that homegrown extremists may move to attack in the U.S. if America or the West engages in war in another Muslim nation. In his testimony Clapper notes that extremists may learn from past plots and averted attacks and disruptions.

On Afghanistan: Taliban Still Has 'Safe Haven' in Pakistan

Discussing the Taliban the intelligence chief said "its losses have come mainly in areas where ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) surge forces are concentrated. It remains resilient and capable of challenging U.S. and international goals and Taliban senior leaders continue to enjoy safe haven in Pakistan, which enables them to provide strategic direction to the insurgency and not fear for their safety. We assess al Qaeda's impact on the Afghanistan insurgency is limited."

"That said, al Qaeda is committed to the Afghan jihad, and the propaganda gains from participating in insurgent attacks outweigh their limited battlefield impact," he said. "In terms of security, we judge that the Afghan police and Army will continue to depend on ISAF support."

Clapper also notes that Afghans earned $1.8 billion from the drug trade last year.

On North Korea: To Early to Judge New Leader, Two Nuclear Weapon Tests

"North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs pose a serious threat to the security environment in East Asia. Its export of ballistic missiles and associated materials to several countries, including Iran and Syria, and its assistance to Syria -- now ended -- illustrate the reach of the North's proliferation activities. We remain alert to the possibility that North Korea might again export nuclear technology."

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