WASHINGTON – Even as an Arabic newspaper in London suggests Al Qaeda (search) is preparing a massive attack on the United States, U.S. officials are expressing confidence that the country has turned the page and is winning the war on terror.
The victory in Afghanistan drove Al Qaeda from their adoptive "homeland" and finding sanctuary in other nations has proven elusive for the terror group, FBI Director Robert Mueller (search) said Thursday.
"We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide," Mueller told the American Jewish Committee, repeating a line from President Bush's speech last week on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
Mueller said agents are working hard to fulfill the bureau's mandate — preventing future terror attacks on the United States and its interests.
One means is through the development of the Terror Threat Integration Center (search), a counterintelligence agency made up of agents from a half dozen different intelligence bureaus. The center, which analyzes data and passes information to appropriate departments, operates under the authority of CIA Director George Tenet (search).
Mueller said his agents are working to rout out sleeper cells and have successfully taken the fight overseas, most recently earning broad cooperation from Southeast Asian and Pacific countries following an October bombing at a Bali nightclub that killed 202 people.
"We are in a much better position to track down and prosecute or neutralize them," Mueller said of would-be terrorists.
But the optimism may be misplaced, say some analysts, who suggest that Al Qaeda, famous for its patience, is in the midst of reorganizing and is waiting for the United States to let down its guard.
"We need to be constantly vigilant because a lot of theorists think it's going to come when we least expect it and by people we least expect," said Michael Greenberger, a former Clinton Justice Department official who teaches law at the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security.
Others say Al Qaeda was never as strong as it appeared to be on Sept. 11.
"We have basically forced the bad guy to run and hide," said Phil Anderson, director of the homeland security initiative at the Center on Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. "We've forced him to be more concerned about surviving and fighting another day rather than assuming the risk of launching another attack on U.S. soil."
Anderson said he is sure Al Qaeda is continuing to plot smaller scale attacks like the Bali bombing or the November attack on a Kenyan resort frequented by Israeli tourists.
A self-proclaimed spokesman for Al Qaeda, Thabet bin Qais (search), is quoted Thursday in an Arabic weekly published in London saying Al Qaeda is regrouping and planning new major attacks against the United States. He warned that Americans are unaware of the changes taking place in the organization.
Still, U.S. officials, while not declaring victory, appear more confident America has the upper hand.
And recent arrests of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (search), the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks; Ramzi Binalshib (search) and Abu Zubaydah (search), two top members of the organization; and Waleed bin Attash (search) and five other alleged Al Qaeda terrorists planning an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, have sparked hope that better days are ahead.
"We are on the right track in reducing if not totally removing the threat from groups of individuals such as Al Qaeda," Mueller said, adding that outreach to and assistance from the Muslim American community has helped put a dent in the task of fighting an ongoing war.
Still, the FBI is remaining vigilant. On Thursday, the weekly FBI bulletin warned law enforcement across the country that devices used to derail railcars and other equipment that had been stolen from railyards in east Texas.
The bulletin did not indicate whether it suspected the thefts were terror related but said Al Qaeda "has identified attacks on railroads as a means to disrupt the U.S. economy."
Fox News' Mike Emanuel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.