Al-Qaida and its associated networks remain the greatest terrorist threat to the U.S. and its partners. That is the assessment of the U.S. State Department’s 2008 Country Reports on Terrorism.
Since September 11th, 2001, al-Qaida and its allies have moved across the border from Afghanistan into remote areas of Pakistan. They’re using that mountainous terrain as a safe haven where they can hide, train, and communicate with their followers, plot attacks, and make plans to send fighters to support the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
Elsewhere, in Iraq, al-Qaida, although still very dangerous, has experienced significant defections. Its support infrastructure and funding have been disrupted. The number of suicide bombings in Iraq -- a key indicator of the operational capability of the group -- fell significantly in 2008.
And very importantly, said Acting U.S. Coordinator for Counterterrorism Ronald Schlicher, “tribal and local leaders in Iraq continued to encourage Sunni tribes and local citizens to reject al-Qaida and to reject its ideology.”
An emerging hotspot over the last year, according to the terrorism report, is Somalia. The group, Al-Shabaab is a terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaida. It has overrun the southern and central parts of the country, and Somalia’s newly established unity government remains in need of more international support to face this and its other challenges, said Mr. Schlicher.
In addition, press reports suggest that foreign extremists have traveled to Somalia to fight alongside local militants where they could be further radicalized and pose a threat to the international community. Somalia’s weak central government has left the country vulnerable to terrorism, piracy, narcotics trafficking, human rights abuses, and ideological extremism.
In 2008, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Algeria killed scores of people. And in Yemen the security situation continued to deteriorate as al-Qaida carried out numerous deadly attacks over the last year.
The United States remains committed to the fight against terrorism. In the last year, al-Qaida leaders in Iraq and Pakistan have been killed; terrorist leaders have been kept on the move and in hiding.
Dozens of countries have passed new counterterrorism laws or strengthened their preexisting laws. And worldwide efforts to combat terrorist financing have been quite successful. The United States will continue to use a comprehensive approach including the use of diplomatic, military, economic, political and cultural tools in the battle to defeat the terrorist threat.