Washington, Feb 6 : National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has said that the al Qaeda's ability to strike the United States has bolstered due to rise in Western recruits in militant camps situated in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Those camps are preparing recruits to carry out terror attacks around the world, and are also a staging ground for assaults on neighboring Afghanistan, McConnell said.
He noted an influx of Western recruits to al Qaeda training camps since mid-2006.
"Al Qaeda is improving the last key aspect of its ability to attack the US: The identification, training and positioning of operatives for an attack on the homeland," McConnell testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
McConnell said Pakistani tribal areas provide al Qaeda a safe haven similar to what it had in Afghanistan before the war with the United States and NATO forces, but on a smaller and less secure scale.
Al Qaeda uses the area to "maintain a cadre of skilled lieutenants capable of directing the organization's operations around the world," he said.
McConnell offered a mixed assessment of the Bush Administration's progress in the war on terror: On the one hand, he said, it was no accident there had been no major attacks against the US or most of its allies in the last year.
Working with its European counterparts, the US has helped unravel extremist plots in Spain, Denmark and Germany; the Washington Post quoted him, as saying.
He also described the recently reported death of Abu Laith al-Libi, one of al Qaeda's military commanders, in a missile attack in Pakistan, as "the most serious blow to the group's top leadership" since December 2005.