Senate Hearings Focus on Resurgence of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan

March 1, 2007 — -- The Senate's hearings today on the U.S. mission in Afghanistan come at a time of increased pressure on the Bush administration to focus on the war there and the resurgence of the Taliban and al Qaeda.

Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, highlighted his concerns in Congress today, warning that Osama bin Laden was rebuilding in northwest Pakistan.

"The best of our knowledge that the senior leadership, No. 1 and No. 2, are there," McConnell said, referring to al Qaeda activity in tribal regions of Pakistan. "They are attempting to reestablish and rebuild, and to establish training camps."

Pakistan's government denies that accusation, but other warning signs from this week indicate that the already-volatile situation in that part of the world is quickly reaching a breaking point.

Earlier this week, a car bomb exploded at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan while Vice President Dick Cheney was visiting.

After meeting with the president and vice president Wednesday, Democratic leaders said that they were happy Cheney was safe but that they were worried about what lay ahead for the war-torn country.

"We believe that Afghanistan is the point of that confrontation with terrorism and we must succeed in Afghanistan," Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said at a news conference after the meeting.

Michael Schuerer, former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, said that al Qaeda was planning to make Sept. 11 look like a day at the beach.

"They will attack in the United States with the worst or from their perspective the best kind of weapon they can find," Schuerer said. "They would certainly like to make it nuclear."

For the president, increasing troop presence in Afghanistan is easier said than done. The military is already stretched thin, and that's not counting his surge of 21,000 troops into Iraq.