U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement in response to yesterday’s release of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which stated that al-Qaeda has a safe haven in Pakistan and regenerated top leadership:

“The National Intelligence Estimate released yesterday is the latest in a string of troubling reports of a rebuilding al-Qaeda working to strike American targets. 

“Specifically, the NIE states that al-Qaeda has a safe haven in the Pakistani Federally Administered Tribal Areas and that its leadership structure has regenerated.  The estimate also explains that the terrorist group is using our occupation of Iraq to recruit new members and finance global operations.

“These are troubling developments, and they indicate a key flaw in the Administration’s anti-terror strategy.  The Administration has not adequately focused specifically on al-Qaeda and their top leadership.  Instead we’ve spread our efforts across a broad range of terrorist groups and the conflict in Iraq.  As a result, we have given al-Qaeda a chance to regenerate its central leadership and gain capabilities not seen since before 9/11.  Our first priority has to be to target al-Qaeda’s top leaders and their organization, and our resources must be allocated accordingly.

“Unfortunately, we are not adequately focusing our assets on al-Qaeda and their command structure.  Currently we have a very high percentage our military assets focused in Iraq.  It is essential that we refocus on the Afghanistan / Pakistan border and other crucial battlegrounds if we are to effectively protect Americans from terrorist attacks.

“Recent news reports indicate that the peace agreement between local tribal leaders in Northwest Pakistan and the Pakistani government may have broken down.  This could be an opportunity for us to work with the Pakistanis to go after our common extremist enemies, but first we have to gain the trust of the Pakistani people.  The Pakistanis in this region face crushing poverty, and if we work with them to build a better society, we can both gain their trust and reduce the incentive for local populations to join groups like al-Qaeda and the Taliban. 

“The report also includes warnings about al-Qaeda’s use of modern communications technology to organize and proselytize.  Earlier this year, the House Armed Services terrorism subcommittee, which I chair, heard similar warnings from expert witnesses that the Internet has become a crucial battleground in this struggle, and that if we do not treat it as such, we will not defeat these terrorists.  The U.S. must improve its effort to monitor and counter these groups’ use of online communications.”