By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
July 26, 2007 - The U.S. offensive targeting overseas terrorists has helped to prevent more Sept. 11-type attacks on the homeland, the defense department's top intelligence official told legislators at a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday. "Our fight against extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world has kept our nation safe from attacks here at home," James R. Clapper Jr., undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said at a joint committee meeting of U.S. House of Representatives members.
The hearing was held to discuss the implications of the recently released 2007 National Intelligence Estimate. The report states that terrorist groups such as al Qaeda are likely to attempt another attack on the U.S. homeland.
The terrorists have been unable to achieve another successful attack on American soil since the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults against New York City and the Pentagon, Clapper said. Yet, this doesn't signify that al Qaeda isn't determined to strike again, he emphasized.
"This is not for a lack of will on the part of our enemy," Clapper asserted. Al Qaeda and its affiliates have carried out attacks in more than two dozen countries since Sept. 11, 2001, he pointed out.
"Al Qaeda has and will continue to attempt visually dramatic mass-casualty attacks here at home, and they will continue to attempt to acquire chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials," Clapper said.
And, there's no doubt that al Qaeda or some other terror group would use such weapons on America if they had the chance, he added.
The report describes al Qaeda as "a resilient and resourceful enemy" that is determined to retain its capability to directly strike America or other nations, Clapper said.
Unlike past global conflicts, America and its allies are today fighting "an enemy not confined to national boundaries or a single ethnic group," Clapper observed, noting that's why it's important to fight terrorists wherever in the world they operate.
Fighting the global war on terrorism "is not an engineering project" with finite start and finish dates, Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, said. The enemy changes his tactics in an attempt to keep coalition forces off balance, he said.
Therefore, U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq must "transform, adjust and respond accordingly," Clapper said.
The National Intelligence Estimate "makes it clear that our operations in Iraq are now distinct from the war on terror," Clapper said. The report also cites al Qaeda's intention to leverage the capabilities of its Iraq affiliate in mounting future attacks, he said.