Home » Afghan Update » Intel Officials Estimate Al Qaeda Numbers Fewer Than 500 Operatives

Intel Officials Estimate Al Qaeda Numbers Fewer Than 500 Operatives

At a conference yesterday held in the foreign policy hotbed of Aspen, Co., Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, estimated that there were somewhat “more than 300” Al Qaeda leaders and fighters hiding in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region that borders Afghanistan.

Combining that figure with a recent estimate given by CIA director Leon Panetta that fewer than 100 Al Qaeda operatives are currently in Afghanistan, then 500 appears to be the number of hard-core Qaeda operatives intelligence officials believe are in the area that is now the focus of major U.S. military and intelligence operations.

President Obama has said the main reason for the surge of some 100,000 troops to Afghanistan was to prevent the country from once again becoming a safe have for Al Qaeda. Next door in Pakistan, the CIA has stepped up its drone bombing campaign targeting Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

– Greg Grant

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

anonymouser July 1, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Al-Q operatives should be able to just go home at this point and rejoice in their victory. No-one can reasonably expect more of them. 100 000 _extra_ troops to hunt 500 ragheads? What is wrong with this picture? Perhaps the simple fact that the Afghanistan war never was about Al-Qaeda, the way Iraq never was about WMD?


jEREMY July 1, 2010 at 10:05 pm

IT'S ABOUT CONTROL….. HOW HAS THE BIGGER HAMMER SO TO SPEAK .The U.S. is always trying to control someone or something , or both.


Paul in Fountain July 2, 2010 at 12:19 pm

anonymouser, I am a large proponent of getting the hell out of those nations and, if one of those terrorist organizations raises its' ugly head, again, glassing them into oblivion and selling the real estate, if possible. However, even I understand the necessity of finding the last of these al-Qaeda ID10T's and ridding the world of their ignorance once and for all. I was always taught, as a kid and young adult, that if you start a job, you finish the job. We've left Iraq, where we never should have been in the first place, but we need to finish in Afghanistan.


John July 8, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I'm looking forward to hearing the "reason" for attacking Iran! Whether it's the US or Israel (merely an extension of the US) who does it…


Bob July 1, 2010 at 1:31 pm

It seems that the Afgan war is about securing access to the hugh supply of minerals that have been discovered in-county. We are fighting to exploit minerals. Just like we fought the Iraq war to exploit oil, then turned to wind, solar and other renewable energy to replace oil. Now we don't need Iraq's oil. Under Obama the Army has adopted a Green Bullet, and the Navy is developing ships that run on biofuel. Soon, we will have navy ships that don't need any fuel. They will be powered by the wind (sails) and solar collectors will supply what electricity is needed for radios etc. It is a wonderful thing what enviromentalists are doing to our military, the economy and the country.


hahahaha ur a fag July 1, 2010 at 2:37 pm

So your saying that the US dollar isnt based off of oil? hrmmm


TMB July 1, 2010 at 8:16 pm

"Under Obama"… I hope this post was sarcastic in nature. Those "green" initiatives of the Army and Navy are over a decade old.


Nidi July 1, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Did anyone besides the media and general public think there were large cadres of al-Qaeda hiding all over the world? al-Qaeda has NEVER been a large entity. They have never been a large provider of men, only money, materiel, and ideology. Groups would come to them, get training and money, then go home to carry out operations. Jason Burke used the perfect metaphor for what al-Qaeda is in his book: they are a venture capital firm. They are the "city on a hill" for radical Islam and terrorism.


Tyler July 1, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Echoing Nidi, its also not clear what Leiter's definition of 'Al Qaeda' was. Because besides Arab Al Qaeda terrorists, NW Pakistan is also home to various other terror groups equally deadly and internationally focused as Bin Laden's. Uzbek-led Islamic Jihad Union, Kashmiri Lashkar e Taiba, Punjabi Fedayeen e Islam, etc.

As well, its the fact that Al Qaeda is being actively and enthusiastically sheltered by wide swaths of the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban groups, who have also shown a willingness to attack American interests outside of the region. The Haqqani and Mehsud groups number in the thousands. Al Qaeda won't be defeated in this region until

Finally, the estimate is in light of the fact that we've had tremendously improved success targeting Al Qaeda leaders inside Pakistan over the past year. Our boosted troop presence in Afghanistan absolutely has something to do with that as they prevent cross-border flow, work with locals, and give Spec Ops and the CIA the freedom to focus on HVTs.


JZizka July 1, 2010 at 6:24 pm

We are not fighting a numbers game, we're fighting an ideology.


Bob July 1, 2010 at 7:03 pm

We're spending billions of dollars and hundreds of young lives to fight an ideology? Sorry, but that doesn't sound like a military job but a job for the CIA (hell of a lot cheaper to do it that way too). How the hell are our children going to pay for this?!?

I respect our troops too much to do this to them any more. They're doing a great job at what they're good at, but they aren't solving the problem; the ideology of the people in that region. Bring 'em home. Now.


Stephen Russell July 2, 2010 at 12:49 am

I dont buy it, its more, gotta be More.


Intrepid July 2, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Keep the presure on in Pakistan, but bring most of the combat troops home, and put the money saved into beefing up our law enforcement and intelligence assets. AQ operatives have and are working out of Yemen. They just launched an English language recruiting website from there. What next? Training camps in Oregon so recruits won't have to travel too far? Far fetched? How many operatives have come in to the USA from Mexico so far? Apparently, we have had a dozen illegal Russian moles living here for years undetected. Any non-Semetic looking terrorist could wreak havoc here while we hunt Taliban and AQ in remote places. It seems to me we have a lot of assets TIED UP BY AQ in Kabul and remote areas.


Bob Sheridan July 2, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Saudi rabia


Infidel4LIFE July 2, 2010 at 7:18 pm

bob, should we bomb these locations? maybe some tac nukes to spice things up? I would love to introduce MIRV to PAK, Syria, Sudan…but alas, we put MIRV away…if there is to be a nuclear attack, my bet is it will be ISRAEL who unleashes this weapon. For them, its a matter of survival, and that my friends, will be our end.


Bob Sheridan July 2, 2010 at 6:31 pm

and I left off London


Infidel4LIFE July 2, 2010 at 2:38 pm

The PAKI’s are a bunch of lying 2 faced m-er f-ers. Those guys will just cross the border and wait us out. I know there were times we were on the other side of the Durrand line, and there were incidents involving US-PAK forces. They HATE us. IF the PAK gov does not close these sanctuaries, i hope we do. As far as HVT’s go, if we can target them inside PAK, we should go get them. This is the deciding year, we can’t go on like this for much longer. If the Marine Corps and the Army were more pro-active, we could smash them, like we should have at Tora Bora. Thanx Rummy, for NOTHING. SCUMBAG POLITICIANS, let us win!!!


Infidel4LIFE July 2, 2010 at 7:13 pm

This area is jihad central. We are in a war of ideologies, cultures, and it may cause the end of us. Islamic fundamentalism is more dangerous than WWII Nazi's and fascists due to nuclear proliferation. They never forgot the Crusades, they blame the West for thier backward culture and lack of wealth-so they now have usurped a whole religion for wat they REALLY want. $$ and POWER. Of course to spread isl-am and kill those who refuse. You want ur CALIPHATE? Come and try to TAKE IT!!! WAKE UP WEST!!!! WE ARE AT WAR.


Bob Sheridan July 2, 2010 at 8:09 pm


Who said anything about Israel and bombing anyone. My point was - AQ is not only in the Stans.


Deane Gilmour July 2, 2010 at 5:57 pm

500 Al Queda Operatives, Yea, maybe in one province only.
Just how many thousands are their right now around the world that the media doesn’t talk about unless they bomb a marketplace, gas a subway, take out a village, with well over 200 hundred casualties per incident.


infidelANDPROUD July 3, 2010 at 2:34 am

Infidel4LIFE …..YOU HAVE SAID IT ALL MY FRIEND, this is true in every way shape and form.
Islamic fundamentalism is in process of taking over, not only that people doesn't realize it but they are not aware that the seeds had been planted since the early seventies and in reality even way back before that!


Infidel4LIFE July 3, 2010 at 2:35 am

The issue has 2 tiers:
-We're fighting the wrong wars in the wrong places.
-People either not educating themselves about the true nature of this global Islamic Jihad movement or not taking it seriously!


infidelANDPROUD July 3, 2010 at 2:36 am

It often seems like the west is turning their face the other way and denying the real issue, keeping itself busy fighting meaningless wars, at least from a social and religious perspective, the only advantage I can think of here is economically but there’s no way in hell that what we did, do, and keep on doing militarily is of any value!


INFIDELANDPROUD July 3, 2010 at 2:36 am

What we're facing is not a conventional war, nor a gorilla war either, as you said it is ideologicalcultural and most of all -as mentioned- it's fueled by religion (in an extremist form), that war is financially and socially is so empowered that the takeover is all around us yet people still turn their head the other way.


infidelANDPROUD July 3, 2010 at 2:37 am

From south Philippine to Egypt, to India, Chechnya, Serbia, Algeria, Sudan, the systematic annihilation of Christians is taking place and the ground has been laid for global action, the bitter truth about this is that the west doesn't realize they will be next despite the fact we have sampled so much of it now, is 911, Spain bombings (and the list goes on) are not enough! Then when would we wake up then!?


infidelANDPROUD July 3, 2010 at 2:37 am

It is a matter of time considering the size of our western civilization, but the seeds have come to fruition, the same seeds that were planted quietly and cleverly back in the seventies, and those people are not only now in every western country but in massive numbers too. I can go on and on in more details but you "Infidel4LIFE" has said it best.

I'm an infidel too just like you… and proud!
For every one participating in this post and with all respect to your opinions and comments, it's time for us to unit and spread the word about the true war we must fight, if not for us, at least for our future generations.

"God Bless America"


infidelANDPROUD July 3, 2010 at 2:38 am



political_observer July 3, 2010 at 5:50 pm

It is time to insure that the right people are elected this November

Limited Government Conservative Big Government Advocate
AK Joe Miller . Lisa Murkowski . Active
AR John Boozman . Blanche Lincoln . Active
CA Carly Fiorina . Barbara Boxer . Active
CO Ken Buck Champion of Freedom. Michael Bennett Enemy of Liberty. Top TargetRace Info
CT TBD Richard Blumenthal . Active
FL Marco Rubio Champion of Freedom. Charlie Crist Enemy of Liberty.Kendrick Meek Enemy of Liberty. Top TargetRace Info
KY Rand Paul Champion of Freedom. Jack Conway Enemy of Liberty. Top TargetRace Info
NC Richard Burr . TBD Monitoring
ND John Hoeven . Tracy Potter . Active
NV Sharron Angle Champion of Freedom. Harry Reid Enemy of Liberty. Top TargetRace Info
NY TBD Kirsten Gillibrand . Active
OR Jim Huffman . Ron Wyden . Monitoring
PA Pat Toomey Champion of Freedom. Joe Sestak Enemy of Liberty. Top TargetRace Info
UT Mike Lee Champion of Freedom. Sam Granato Enemy of Liberty. Top TargetRace Info
WA TBD Patty Murray .


Donnell July 3, 2010 at 7:09 pm

What do you expect, when you elect dumb political leaders you get dumb political policy's and laws. We have no one to blame but ourselve's. We are too politically correct to even call our enemies what they are. Remember a few weeks ago when Eric Holder our attorney general could not bring himself to utter the words "Islamic extremist" now what is wrong with that picture. Most of the 911 terrorist and Bin Laden are from Saudi Arabia, The Taliban were created in Pakistan. Now if we are to defeat our enemies. There are say it, these Islamic militants we have to goto the source to kill it, Pakistan & Saudia Arabia. Dam the political correctness we are in are war of survival with these people and its about time we woke up and do what needs to be done to survive and defeat these Islamic extremist, zealots, crazy's choose your own harsh words.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: