CIA Director Michael Hayden says Al Qaeda is on the “verge” of suffering a strategic defeat in Iraq, claiming U.S. and Iraqi forces are succeeding in shutting down the terrorist network.
Acknowledging that the progress still could reverse in such a volatile region, Hayden said in an interview with FOX News on Friday that military and intelligence efforts, along with public disgust for the group’s tactics, have put Al Qaeda operatives in serious trouble.
“Nothing is guaranteed and everything's reversible in this world. But Al Qaeda is on the verge of a strategic defeat in Iraq,” he told FOX News. “There are clear elements of clear defeat in Saudi Arabia. ... In about 2003 there were a series of terrorist activities, which the Saudi government responded to very vigorously.”
Hayden was sworn in as director of the CIA exactly two years ago, and since then, he says, his agency has noticed positive trends when it comes to the terrorist group.
“I think I used the phrase 'satanic violence' in terms of what Al Qaeda is doing. All of those things are blending together and creating the circumstances we are now seeing,” he said. “Those parts of Iraq where Al Qaeda can feel safe are small and shrinking. And again, nothing in this line of work is guaranteed, but the trend lines we are seeing right now are quite positive.”
Hayden says Al Qaeda’s losses in Iraq are encouraging, not just for the United States' fight against them, but also for Iraqi groups Al Qaeda sought to force into its cause.
“Although it kind of seems operational and tactical, we should not dismiss the importance of that,” he said. “That creates the conditions for other kinds of success. Other kinds of success would be the Iraqi people … realizing that the Al Qaeda vision for Iraq is not something that they want to have for themselves or for their children.
“You could say Al Qaeda overplayed its hand. I'd say Al Qaeda revealed its true colors.”
In fact, Hayden says Al Qaeda is not only struggling in the military sense, but is also encountering increasing and broader resistance from other Muslims, even radical ones. Several are starting to question Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman Al-Zawahiri about the group's tactics and philosophy.
“You are seeing significant portions of the Islamic world take issue, and take issue publicly with Al Qaeda’s world view and Al Qaeda’s tactics and Al Qaeda’s vision for the future,” Hayden said.
He said one reason for that is Al Qaeda’s attacks are “overwhelmingly” killing Muslims.
“You know the Muslim world sees this and asks why — what would justify it?” he said.
“It's easy to be skeptical and cynical in our profession, but by and large, if you step back and just look at behavior, at the end of the day … human values win,” Hayden told FOX News. “And what was going on in Baghdad, what was going on in other locations in Iraq, was as offensive to the people of Iraq as it seemed to be to your viewers.”
FOX News' Jim Angle contributed to this report.