Video: Al-Qaida tactics

  1. Transcript of: Al-Qaida tactics

    MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Pakistan . This was the article on Thursday in The Washington Post . "The United States has escalated its unilateral strikes against al-Qaeda members and fighters" -- excuse me -- "operating in Pakistan 's tribal areas , partly because of anxieties that Pakistan 's new leaders will insist on scaling back military operations in that country, according to U.S. officials.

    " Washington is worried that pro-Western President Pervez Musharraf , who has generally supported the U.S. strikes, will almost certainly have reduced powers in the months ahead, and so it wants to inflict as much damage as it can to al-Qaeda 's network now, the officials said."

    Can you confirm that?

    GEN. HAYDEN: No. I'm not -- or I can't talk about -- confirm or deny any, any operational activity by CIA or any other organ of the U.S. government . But, but what I can tell you about is the situation along the Af-Pak border, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which presents clear and present danger to Afghanistan , to Pakistan and to the West in general, and to the United States in particular.

    MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that's where Osama bin Laden is?

    GEN. HAYDEN: Yes.

    MR. RUSSERT: Michael Mullen , the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff , believes that there is -- if there is another terrorist attack , it will originate there.

    GEN. HAYDEN: We believe so, too. We, we, we can see what's going on. Our -- you, you talked before about intelligence and how good or ill we have been in the past. We've gotten much better against al-Qaeda , and, of course, tomorrow we should be better than we are today. So, you know, that's not an absolute scale. We have to keep getting better. But it's very clear to us that al-Qaeda has been able, over the past 18 months or so, to establish a safe haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area that they have not enjoyed before, that they are bringing operatives into that region for training, operatives that, a phrase I would use, Tim , wouldn't attract your attention if they were going through the customs line at Dulles with you when you're coming back from overseas.

    MR. RUSSERT: Look, look, look Western?

    GEN. HAYDEN: Look Western , who, who, who would be able to come into this country with -- again, without attracting the kind of attention that others might.

    MR. RUSSERT: You're getting better local cooperation?

    GEN. HAYDEN: We have good cooperation with a variety of allies, and, and I should add, maybe as a point to some of the things that were made in The Washington Post article, that -- a counterpoint to it, that we have not had a better partner in the war against terrorism than the Pakistani government .

    MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that President Musharraf will be there by June?

    GEN. HAYDEN: I don't know. This is, this is going to be a product of the Pakistani political process.

    MR. RUSSERT: You talked about some internal divisions within al-Qaeda , between Saudis and Egyptians. Do you believe that Osama bin Laden is simply a figurehead?

    GEN. HAYDEN: A figurehead would, would not give him sufficient weight. Let me use iconic figure. It, it -- his presence -- and icon's the best word I can think of -- gives certain punch, certain image to the, to the global movement. But he's not operationally involved. And an awful lot, an awful lot of the operational force of al-Qaeda -- you know, the Arabic name is the name and then often finished by the country they're from -- an awful lot of them are al- Masris , which means "the Egyptians."

    MR. RUSSERT: In 2006 , President Musharraf had an agreement with some of the tribal lords, saying that it would be hands off by the Pakistani army . The result of that seems to be this increased terrorist activity or at least organizational ability. Was that a mistake by Musharraf ?

    GEN. HAYDEN: Absolutely disastrous. All right? And then, and then, and, look, to be fair to President Musharraf , in different times and in different circumstances, all of us would think that what he had, what he had decided to do was wise, was patient, was, was what you need to do over the long term. The problem was what was happening over the short term. He, he was, in fact, pulling forces and the writ of the Pakistani government back from the tribal region, and al- Qaeda and the Taliban were having more and more free reign there. And so, again, the overall objective, you know, in the easier military hand -- more economic, cultural, political integration , investment, worked for the long term, it's inarguable. But what it turned into since September of '06, when Governor Aurakzai signed that peace agreement in north Waziristan is what I referred to a minute ago. It created that safe haven .

    MR. RUSSERT: Did you tell Musharraf when you met with him in January about that?

    GEN. HAYDEN: Yes.

    MR. RUSSERT: And he's changed?

    GEN. HAYDEN: He, he -- yes. He's -- he, he understands.

    MR. RUSSERT: One last question on that. Could we apprehend bin Laden , but are we concerned if we did it would jeopardize our ability to monitor what al-Qaeda 's doing?

    GEN. HAYDEN: No. Bin Laden , Zawahiri , the other leadership of al-Qaeda , I suppose one could make an argument on the one hand, on the other hand. But I can tell you, operationally, we, we are turning every effort to kill or capture that leadership from the top to the bottom.

updated 3/30/2008 2:40:31 PM ET 2008-03-30T18:40:31

The situation in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan where al-Qaida has established a safe haven presents a "clear and present danger" to the West, CIA Director Michael Hayden said Sunday NBC's "Meet the Press."

Hayden cited the belief by intelligence agencies that Osama bin Laden is hiding there in arguing that the U.S. has an interest in targeting the border region. If there were another terrorist attack against Americans, Hayden said, it would most certainly originate from that region.

"It's very clear to us that al-Qaida has been able for the past 18 months or so to establish a safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border area that they have not enjoyed before, and that they're bringing in operatives into the region for training," he said.

Hayden added that those operatives "wouldn't attract your attention if they were going through the customs line at Dulles (airport, outside Washington) with you when you're coming back to the United States — who look Western."

Washington has sought reassurance that Pakistan's new coalition government will keep the pressure on extremist groups using the country's lawless northwest frontier as a springboard for attacks in Afghanistan and beyond.

Over the weekend, Pakistan's new prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, pledged to make the fight against terrorism his top priority. But he said peace talks and aid programs could be more effective than weapons in fighting militancy in tribal areas along the Afghan border. It was the new government's latest rebuke of President Pervez Musharraf's military tactics, which many Pakistanis believe have led to a spike in domestic attacks.

Hayden declined to comment on reports that the U.S. might be escalating unilateral strikes against al-Qaida members and fighters operating in Pakistan's tribal areas out of concern that the pro-Western Musharraf's influence might be waning.

Hayden only would say that Pakistan's cooperation in the past has been crucial to U.S. efforts to stem terrorism there.

"The situation on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border presents clear and present danger to Afghanistan, Pakistan, the West in general and United States in particular," he said. "Operationally, we are turning every effort to capture or kill that leadership from the top to the bottom."

On Iraq, Hayden said it could be "years" before the central government might be able to function on its own without the aid of U.S. combat forces. Hayden said he would defer to the specific assessments of Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, top U.S. diplomat in Baghdad, who return to Washington in April to report to Congress.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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