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Wolfowitz: 'We are moving to victory'

Cites CIA report saying al Qaeda leadership is in disarray

Wolfowitz and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers wait for the hearing to begin.
Wolfowitz and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers wait for the hearing to begin.

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Paul D. Wolfowitz
Al Qaeda

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Al Qaeda's top leaders are more confused than at any time since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a CIA report cited by a top Bush administration official in Senate testimony Tuesday.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz used the unclassified CIA summary to demonstrate progress in the war on terrorism at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that centered on President Bush's $87 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Two years after the September 11 attacks, al Qaeda's central leadership is reeling from the impact of the counterterrorist successes of the U.S. and our allies," the report said.

"The central leadership of al Qaeda is at growing risk of breaking apart as our blows against the group create a level of disarray and confusion throughout the organization that we have not seen since the collapse of the Taliban in late 2001."

Wolfowitz told the committee: "I think that is a good news story. I guess one should also remember that in war good news can be followed by bad news, but I think the point is that we are moving to victory." The CIA later released the summary.

Nevertheless, Wolfowitz faced tough questions as he urged Congress to support Bush's budget request. (Full story)

"The costs are large, but it is a battle that we can win and a battle that we must win," said Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the administration's strategy in Iraq.

About $71 billion of the request would pay for the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, which Bush has declared the "central front" in the war on terrorism launched after September 11.

Typical of the comments from committee members were those of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona.

"The facts as I see ... are clearly that we underestimated the size of the challenge that we would face after the 'military operations' ... were completed," McCain said.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, said he wanted more answers about how long the reconstruction of Iraq would take, and how much it would cost, before giving the administration "a blank check."

"Congress is not an ATM. We have to be able to explain this new, enormous bill to the American people," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia.

The CIA summary included a statistic used by Bush in his televised address to the nation Sunday night in which he asked Congress to provide the $87 billion in next fiscal year's budget.

Bush said more than two-thirds of al Qaeda's senior leaders, operational managers and key facilitators are dead or in custody.

"While the group has a large bench of middle managers and foot soldiers, it is rapidly losing its cadre of senior planners who have access to and the trust of [Osama] bin Laden, the leadership and organizational skills needed to mount sophisticated attacks and the savvy to operate in an increasingly hostile counterterrorism environment," the summary said.

"Command and control is under growing stress and bin Laden is isolated from the group. Many recent detainees -- including Khalid Shaikh Muhammad -- played a key role in relaying instructions, resources and encouragement from bin Laden."

It said key financial intermediaries also have been killed and captured, and "our friends in the Arab and Islamic worlds have played a key role in putting al Qaeda on the run."

The CIA singled out the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the latter for pursing "a harsh crackdown on al Qaeda operatives" following May 12 bombings in Riyadh.

Despite all this, the report said, no matter how successful the effort to defeat al Qaeda and its scattered network of cells worldwide, "bin Laden's call for attacks on the United States will continue to resonate among Muslim extremists."

"It takes only a handful of terrorists with little more than creativity, dedication and luck to successfully cause mass casualties," the summary said.

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