WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama says Al-Qaeda has lost significant operational ability but are "still plotting" attacks on the United States and its allies.
He made the remarks during a visit to the National Counterterrorism Center outside of Washington on October 6.
The president told the center's staff that their work was critical to the U.S. mission of dismantling extremist groups around the world.
"Because of you, and all the organizations you represent, we're making real progress in our core mission: to disrupt, and dismantle, and defeat Al-Qaeda and other extremist networks around the world," Obama said.
"We must never lose sight of that goal."
Administration officials say 11 of the 20 most wanted Al-Qaeda and allied leaders in Pakistan's tribal area have been killed or captured since July 2008.
Obama cited intelligence reports that say the group's numbers and influence have been damaged.
"As one counterterrorism expert recently observed, because of our efforts Al-Qaeda and its allies have not only lost operational capacity, they've lost legitimacy and credibility," Obama said.
"Of course, nobody does a better job of discrediting Al-Qaeda than Al-Qaeda itself, which has killed men and women and children of many faiths in many nations, and which has absolutely no positive future to offer the people of the world.
'The Bat Cave'
The president stopped by the National Counterterrorism Center to give a pep talk to the terrorism analysts, who work in obscurity in darkened rooms filled with blinking computers.
The cross-agency body was created after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and has a dual mission of intelligence analysis and operational planning.
Employees collect and share information to combat terrorism within the United States and abroad. Because of the intense secrecy surrounding its activities, it is nicknamed "the Bat Cave," after the secret home of the comic-book character Batman.
"The record of your service is written in the attacks that never occur -- because you thwarted them; and in the countless Americans who are alive today -- because you saved them," Obama told the assembled staff.
"For that, America is in your debt.
He also warned, though, that the enemies of the United States are relentless, resourceful, and "still plotting."
For that reason, Obama said, the United States is applying pressure on Al-Qaeda "by sharing more intelligence. disrupting terrorist financing, cutting off supply chains, and inflicting major losses" on its leadership.
"It should now be clear -- the United States and our partners have sent an unmistakable message: We will target Al-Qaeda wherever they take root; we will not yield in our pursuit; and we are developing the capacity and the cooperation to deny a safe haven to any who threaten America and its allies," he said.
White House officials said the president's visit was unrelated to the administration's ongoing review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.
Obama and his national security team are thought to be discussing a range of options, including granting U.S. and NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal's request for as many as 40,000 more troops, reducing the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan to focus more on the border areas with Pakistan, and using more unmanned drones to conduct targeted missile strikes on suspected terrorist hideouts.
Obama met with around two dozen Congressional leaders on October 6 to update them on the review process. He plans to meet with his top advisers again on October 7 and 10.