Washington, Aug.13 : The terrorist network al-Qaeda is exploiting the latest round of political turmoil in Pakistan in a bid to strengthen its foothold along the country's border with Afghanistan.
According to Ted Gistaro, a National Intelligence officer dealing with transnational threats and an al-Qaeda expert, there is a possibility of an al Qaeda attack-taking place during the upcoming U.S. election season.
The Washington Post quoted Gistaro as further saying that Osama bin Laden continues to enjoy a haven in areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and has managed to deepen alliances with a wide range of Islamist groups from South Asia to the Middle East.
Gistaro is of the view that with the help of such allies, al-Qaeda is seeking to position terrorist operatives in the United States and other Western countries.
"We assess that al-Qaeda's intent to attack the U.S. homeland remains undiminished," Gistaro said in a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Gistaro was the principal author of a "National Intelligence Estimate" report last August that described a resurgent al-Qaeda rebuilding its network inside the autonomous tribal lands in Pakistan's northwestern frontier.
In the year since the report's release, bin Laden has been dealt numerous setbacks, particularly in Iraq, where al-Qaeda's local affiliates suffered repeated military losses as well as declining popular support.
But in Pakistan, al-Qaeda's position is stronger than ever, as its Taliban allies have undermined local government forces to extend its control over the region, Gistaro said.
Al-Qaeda "now has many of the operational and organizational advantages it once enjoyed across the border in Afghanistan" before the U.S.-led invasion of that country seven years ago, Gistaro said.
The group's relative freedom has allowed it to train a new generation of recruits, including mid-level lieutenants who are moving through the ranks to replace killed or captured veterans, he said.
Bin Laden appears particularly interested in finding recruits of Western origin who possess travel documents and language skills that allow them easy access to Europe and the United States, he added.
While intelligence officials are unaware of specific plans for attacks inside the United States, they expect an increase in threats in the run-up to U.S. elections, Gistaro said.
To bin Laden, "there is no difference between Democratic and Republican candidates," since, to him, both are backed by global corporations whose values al-Qaeda opposes, Gistaro said.
Gistaro's remarks coincided with an unconfirmed report of the death of al-Qaeda's top commander in Afghanistan. Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid, commonly known as Sheik Saeed.