Fri, Sep 14, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Al-Qaeda has regained strength: IISS

`SPECTACULAR STRIKE' The London-based think tank said that the `core' of al-Qaeda proved adaptable and resilient, retaining its ability to coordinate large-scale attacks

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Al-Qaeda has revived, extended its influence and has the capacity to carry out a spectacular strike similar to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US, one of the world's leading security think tanks warned on Wednesday.

There is increasing evidence "that 'core' al-Qaeda is proving adaptable and resilient and has retained an ability to plan and coordinate large-scale attacks in the Western word despite the attrition it has suffered," the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said.

"The threat from Islamist terrorism remains as high as ever, and looks set to get worse," it said.

"The US and its allies have failed to deal a death-blow to al-Qaeda; the organization's ideology appears to have taken root to such a degree that it will require decades to eradicate," it said.

The warning came in the latest annual review of world affairs by the IISS. Its strategic survey paints a bleak picture of global security in the future and warns:

* Iran could have a nuclear weapon by 2009 or 2010, though this remains the "worst-case prediction";

* the US suffered a loss of authority as a result of the failure to impose order in Iraq;

* there are serious doubts about the ability of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but any replacement would probably come too late to "halt the draining of American willpower to `stay the course'";

* if climate change is allowed to continue unchecked, its effects will be catastrophic "on the level of nuclear war."

At a press conference launching the report, senior IISS analysts went further.

Asked whether al-Qaeda had the capacity now to carry out a 9/11-style attack, and whether it was stronger than in 9/11, Nigel Inkster, the institute's director of transnational threats and political risk, replied: "Both."

Inkster, a former MI6 chief who was a candidate for the secret agency's top job three years ago, said there was much debate within al-Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks.

Many of its supporters believed it was a "tactical error," Inkster said, because it led to the removal of a safe base -- Taliban-controlled southern Afghanistan.

However, the recent foiling of an alleged plot in Germany and the alleged airliner plot last year in Britain showed that al-Qaeda had the ambition to carry out spectacular attacks while "strengthening" its "position in the bad lands of northwest Pakistan," he said.

Pakistani indigenous groups were "aligning themselves with al-Qaeda and the process of radicalization within Islamic countries is continuing apace," he said.

The institute said that disrupted plots had pointed to a "continuing and worsening problem of radicalization within Europe's Islamic diasporas -- and the degree to which terrorists were still being directed by al-Qaeda."

The IISS' assessment of the terrorist threat reflects that of MI5 and MI6. There are 2,000 individuals engaged in 30 terrorist plots in 200 networks, according to British security and intelligence officials.

"Western governments tend to meet the Muslim `single narrative' [that the West is by definition anti-Muslim] by way of rebuttal, arguing against its basis in fact," IISS director general John Chipman said.

That had to be addressed by encouraging non-violent responses, he said.

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