Differences Halt Plans Against Al-Qaeda

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U.S. government infighting has delayed the hunt for al-Qaeda leaders in northwest Pakistan, the New York Times reports.

The New York Times reported Monday that the disputes center around a secret Pentagon plan launched last year. That plan, also known as Operation Cannonball, would make it easier for U.S. special forces to launch missions in Pakistan's tribal regions.

That's where Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are both believed to be hiding.

But more than six months later, bickering in U.S. intelligence circles has put the strategy on hold.

Click the play button for comments from CBN News Terror Analyst, Erick Stakelbeck.  For more on al-Qaeda visit his blog, Stakelbeck on Terror.

A senior Defense Department official said there was "mounting frustration" in the Pentagon because of the delay.

The New York Times report says these kinds of squabbles have been common since al-Qaeda leaders fled to Pakistan in late 2001. And as they continue, so does the growth of terrorist operations in the country.

Growing Training Camps

One retired CIA officer estimated a network of new training camps had been re-established in the area, and the number of recruits in those camps has risen to as many as 2,000 in recent months from just a few hundred.

The White House downplayed that disputes had delayed finding al-Qaeda. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino denied that there is a problem.

"I would say to you in the last seven years there has been a lot of success in terms of finding that second- and third-level al-Qaeda guy. And we have been able to prevent attacks so far," she said.

She added that there were "not any" differences within the administration that were "impeding an effort" to fight terror.

Sunday, President Bush invited Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to visit Washington next month. They were to discuss tactics to weaken Taliban initiatives and decide whether the U.S. will move into the tribal areas.

Facing the Threat

Experts warn that it is only a matter of time before an attack planned in the untouched mountains of Pakistan is carried out on American soil.

"The United States faces a threat from al Qaeda today that is comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001," Pentagon consultant and terrorism expert Seth Jones said. "The base of operations has moved only a short distance, roughly the difference from New York to Philadelphia."

Sources: New York Times, AFP, ABC

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