The U.S. intelligence community assessed that al-Qa’ida and its affiliates, particularly al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), were actively engaged in operational plotting against the United States.
In 2009, the al-Qa’ida core in Pakistan remained the foremost security threat to the U.S. homeland.
Al-Qa’ida suffered several significant setbacks in 2009 due to Pakistani military operations aimed at eliminating militant strongholds, leadership losses, and increased difficulty in raising money, training recruits, and planning attacks outside of the region.
In addition, the number of imams, clerics, and former militants speaking out against al-Qa’ida increased.
The al-Qa’ida threat was more evenly distributed among its affiliates in 2009:
Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula: The failed December 25th bombing was a stark reminder that AQAP has developed not just the desire but also the capability to launch a strike against the United States. Additionally, with attacks on Yemeni security services, as well as the attempted assassination of the head of counterterrorism in Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammad bin Nayif, AQAP showed serious intentions to conduct attacks.
Al-Shabaab: Al-Shabaab controlled significant tracts of territory in Somalia. While more of an ally than a full-blown affiliate, several al-Shabaab leaders have publically proclaimed loyalty to al-Qa’ida.
Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb: Due, in part, to its failures in northeastern Algeria and chronic financial troubles, AQIM increased attacks and kidnappings for ransom against Western targets in northern Mali, Mauritania, and Niger in an effort to raise funds. Its operations along under-governed borders in the Sahel posed challenges to coordinated state responses.
Al-Qa’ida continued its efforts to encourage key regional affiliates and terrorist networks to pursue a global agenda, using both the Internet as a means to distribute propaganda and telecommunications infrastructure to plan attacks and coordinate movements. Going forward, this will be an area of continued focus for the United States.
Iran continued its financial, material, and logistical support for Hizballah, HAMAS, and other terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. Syria also continued to provide safe-haven as well as political and other support to HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, and a number of other designated Palestinian terrorist groups.
The U.S. addressed the state insufficiencies that allow terrorists to operate freely by promoting effective civilian law enforcement, good governance, and the rule of law. A major focus of this work involves effectively building capacity and making counterterrorism training for police, prosecutors, border officials, and members of the judiciary more systematic, more innovative, and far reaching. Dozens of countries have passed counterterrorism legislation or strengthened existing laws that provide their law enforcement and judicial authorities with tools to bring terrorists to justice.
The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) provided a statistical annex to the report. It cautions against placing too much emphasis on the use of attack data to gauge success or failure of our counterterrorism efforts. In 2009, 11,000 terrorist attacks occurred in 83 countries, resulting in more than 15,700 deaths. Attacks decreased by about six percent in 2009 and deaths declined by about 5 percent. This marks the second consecutive year attacks and fatalities decreased. The largest number of reported terrorist attacks in 2009 occurred in South Asia, which also had, for the second consecutive year, the greatest number of fatalities. Together, South Asia and the Near East were the locations for almost two-thirds of the 234 high-casualty attacks (those that killed 10 or more people) in 2009.
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