This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, May 25, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BUSH: This will be a decisive blow to terrorism at the heart of its power and a victory for the security of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: A London think tank is concluding that the war on terror is far from won. Its report finds that Al Qaeda (search) has 18,000 militants ready to strike, although 2,000 have been killed along with more than half the network's leadership.
The study finds that the Iraq war is helping the terrorists recruit newcomers and that 1,000 Al Qaeda militants are currently in Iraq.
Fox News foreign affairs analyst, Ambassador Marc Ginsberg (search), joins me now from Washington. Mark, today's big question, is Al Qaeda growing and ready to strike as we sit here and talk about them?
AMBASSADOR MARC GINSBERG, FOX NEWS FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: Actually, John, I think it's the franchise organizations of Al Qaeda that have been growing from the approximately 20,000 Jihadists that traverse through the Al Qaeda-Afghani camps to be trained as terrorists under bin Laden's direction. We've only been able to account for about 5,000 to 6,000 of them given all the estimates from different think tanks. That has left anywhere from 13,000 or so lurking around the Middle East as well as Europe to plan further attacks and to set up sub cells. And, John, since the Iraq war, we've been able to account that at least 50, 5-0, new sub- cell franchise organizations that have been set up under Al Qaeda-like operations.
GIBSON: Marc, it's often said that the Iraq war created more Al Qaeda terrorists. Is that true?
GINSBERG: I think that most people would say, yes, that those who follow this, as I do, would say that there's been a proliferation of recruits that have been able to be attracted as a result of the propaganda that have come into the hands of Al Qaeda. It's not by accident that the tapes of Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden's number two, as well as bin Laden himself have been given long and extensive coverage by al Jazeera and other organizations around the Middle East.
GIBSON: You're saying al Jazeera is acting as a recruitment agent?
GINSBERG: Well, al Jazeera is a mouth piece for bin Laden's audio tapes as well as those videotapes that have been issued by the other Al Qaeda members. And so, yes, once they have that extensive channel to be able to read, and review and hear the calls to arms, al Jazeera has been serving as a very effective agent, so to speak, by which to proliferate the messages from bin Laden.
GIBSON: Marc, as you heard the president say last night — what he said is Iraq is the central front on the war on terror, and in a way he wanted it to be so that lower Manhattan wasn't. Is that a good working theory on how to fight Al Qaeda and how to fight terrorists?
GINSBERG: I'm not convinced that we have to look at Iraq's through the prism of terrorism being ground central in Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle (search). The attacks that have taken please from Pakistan to Morocco in the last year should be a significant indication to all Americans, John, that the war on terror is far broader than what's taking please in Iraq. And that while Iraq has been able to be a good recruiting propaganda commercial for the Jihadists, they didn't need a lot of incitement because the proliferation of cells have occurred irrespective of what's taken place in Iraq.
GIBSON: Do you think the number of cells in the United States has grown?
GINSBERG: I don't really know the answer it that. I can only pay attention to what the FBI and homeland security has said. We all have reason to believe that they will continue to try to send recruits into the United States. Whether there's more cells here, I think, is doubtful. Whether there's been penetration by individuals I think is far more likely.
GIBSON: Ambassador Marc Ginsberg, Marc, it's always good to see you, thanks a lot.
GINSBERG: Thanks, John.
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