Wednesday, March 11, 2009

US Official: Al Qaeda's Afghanistan Presence Increasing

Via -

Al Qaeda has expanded its presence in Afghanistan, taking advantage of the sinking security situation to resurface in the country it was forced to flee seven years ago, the top U.S. military intelligence official testified Tuesday.

Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, described Al Qaeda's efforts as one of the reasons for the Obama administration's decision last month to order additional troops to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is no longer the haven for Al Qaeda that it was before the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. But in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Maples said, "I believe Al Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan is more significant, although still at a relatively minor scale, than we have seen in the past."

Maples also cited intelligence indicating that Iran is playing a more active role in supporting a militant group based in Pakistan that is launching attacks against U.S. and Afghan forces.

"We are seeing some increased activity between Iran and the Haqqani network," Maples said, referring to a militant group that has carried out a series of brazen strikes against targets in and around Kabul, the Afghan capital.

Maples testified alongside Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair in a hearing that covered an array of national security threats.

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