In one brief line, this year's State Department report on global terrorism draws a key conclusion: "Overall, we are in the first phase of a potentially long war."
"You look at the ups and downs of this battle, it's going to take us a long time to win this," said Henry Crumpton, the U.S. ambassador in charge of counterterrorism, in briefing the media about the report at the State Department. "You can't measure this month by month or year by year. It's going to take a lot longer."
Iran's Role As Terrorism Sponsor
The report also took dead aim at Iran, on the same day that the crisis over Iran's nuclear program escalated with the UN nuclear watchdog's report that Tehran failed to meet UN Security Council demands.
The State Department report reiterates the U.S. position that Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, but it also gave new details, accusing Tehran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Ministry of Intelligence and Security of being directly involved in planning and backing terrorist attacks.
Five other countries are classified as sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.
Afghanistan No Longer Safe Haven
Afghanistan, meanwhile, has ceased to be a safe haven for Osama bin Laden and his top aides. They were portrayed as scattered and on the run. Moreover, ties between the terror network and Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers are weakening, and the group's finances and logistics have been disrupted.
"Afghanistan embraced a new democratic government -- a remarkable feat -- even while violence along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border increased," Crumpton said.
Overall, the report said more than 14,600 people were killed last year in some 11,000 attacks around the world.
About 3,500 of last year's attacks occurred in Iraq and about 8,300 of the deaths occurred there, accounting for a large part of the increase over 2004. The report said the rest of the increase was due to new methods of counting the attacks -- although some independent analysts say the higher figures show that terrorism has grown around the world since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Through the death and arrest of several of its top operational planners, Al-Qaeda's leaders lost some control of their organization last year. Nonetheless, the United States and its allies still face a formidable threat from bin Laden's terror network.
But through technology, including the Internet, militants are getting training, the report says. And they're turning up in local, less-organized cells that are difficult to track.
Indeed, the report warns Al-Qaeda is likely to continue to adapt to changing conditions, and that there will be "several more cycles of action/reaction before the war's outcome is no longer in doubt. It is likely we will have a resilient enemy for years to come."
(The complete report is available at http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/c17689.htm)
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