WASHINGTON – The war on terrorism is forcing a scattered Al Qaeda network to shift its efforts and devise new kinds of attacks, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday.
The war has left Al Qaeda terrorists with less money and fewer training camps. They also are finding it harder to communicate with each other, Rumsfeld said.
"We keep doing things that disrupt their ability to engage in terrorist acts, but unquestionably, we're not going to disrupt them all," Rumsfeld said. "There's no way to do that. Life's not perfect."
Tightened security at places where America already has been vulnerable also forces terrorists to find other ways to attack, he said.
"If you're Al Qaeda and you had tried the airplane approach, it's now harder to get on an airplane," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon press conference. "... Our embassies are better guarded ... our ships. Therefore, it's not surprising that they're going to migrate over to other areas."
Bush administration officials have said Al Qaeda's loss of its sanctuary in Afghanistan has led to an increase in extremist activity in other countries, as Usama bin Laden's scattered operatives turn to foreign affiliates to plan new terror attacks.
These affiliated groups, in Sunni Muslim countries in North Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, have historically sent fighters for training in bin Laden's Afghan camps. Bin Laden's group maintains contacts with many of its affiliates, sometimes providing financing, weapons and expertise.
Officials said the shift likely would lead to more frequent, but less sophisticated, terrorist attacks than those bin Laden is known for.
Instead of meticulously planned Al Qaeda strikes, attacks might be thrown together hastily and with local resources. They might also be more likely to target U.S. interests on foreign soil, probably in the home country of a particular affiliate group, than in the United States, officials said.
Recent plots linked to Al Qaeda include:
--The April 11 truck bombing of a a synagogue in Tunisia.
--Three Saudi Al Qaeda members arrested in Morocco for allegedly plotting to bomb U.S. and British warships crossing the Straits of Gibraltar between Morocco and Spain.
--A Sudanese man in foreign custody acknowledged trying to shoot down a U.S. military aircraft taking off from an air base in Saudi Arabia in recent weeks.
--An alleged plot to detonate a radiological weapon -- or "dirty bomb" -- in Washington, D.C., was stopped in its planning stages with the May 8 arrest of Jose Padilla, described by officials as a protege of Abu Zubaydah.
It remained unclear who was responsible for Friday's truck bombing outside the U.S. consulate in Karachi.
"They move across a spectrum, looking for ways to achieve their goal. And their goal is to kill innocent men, women and children," Rumsfeld said. "And there are lots of ways to do that."