Hayden: al-Qaida Near Defeat in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Elsewhere

CIA Director Michael Hayden tells the Washington Post that al-Qaida is on the run:

In a strikingly upbeat assessment, the CIA chief cited major gains against al-Qaeda’s allies in the Middle East and an increasingly successful campaign to destabilize the group’s core leadership.

While cautioning that al-Qaeda remains a serious threat, Hayden said Osama bin Laden is losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Islamic world and has largely forfeited his ability to exploit the Iraq war to recruit adherents. Two years ago, a CIA study concluded that the U.S.-led war had become a propaganda and marketing bonanza for al-Qaeda, generating cash donations and legions of volunteers.

All that has changed, Hayden said in an interview with The Washington Post this week that coincided with the start of his third year at the helm of the CIA.

“On balance, we are doing pretty well,” he said, ticking down a list of accomplishments: “Near strategic defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al-Qaeda globally — and here I’m going to use the word ‘ideologically’ — as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on their form of Islam,” he said.

On that latter point, see Judah’s posts here and here. Also, Paul Cruickshank at the Counterterrorism Blog discusses what he calls the “Jihadist revolt against Bin Laden,” which is being driven by “Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate targeting of civilians and the fact that most of its victims since 9/11 have been Muslim.”

In the New Republic, Cruickshank and Peter Bergen assess “The Unraveling.” In the New Yorker, Lawrence Wright profiles al-Qaida dissident Sayyed Imam al Sharif.

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