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30 September 2005 -- A top U.S. general said yesterday that Al-Qaeda is seeking to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.
The assessment was made in Washington by General John Abizaid, the top U.S. military official responsible for the Middle East.
Abizaid told a U.S. congressional panel that Al-Qaeda continues to represent one of the greatest dangers to the United States.
He said Al-Qaeda continues to play a role in the Iraqi insurgency.
"While Al-Qaeda does not represent the main part of the insurgency in Iraq, it is certainly present in Iraq," Abizaid said. "And while it doesn't represent the main source of difficulties in Pakistan's Northwestern Territory, in Waziristan areas, it certainly plays a role there."
Abizaid said the difficulty the U.S. and coalition forces face in the region is an enemy driven by religious beliefs. He said the Al-Qaeda threat "should not be underestimated."
Also testifying was General George Casey, the head of U.S.-led forces in Iraq. He said U.S. troops could begin returning home from Iraq next year. He added that withdrawal depends on conditions during and after the upcoming elections in Iraq.