WASHINGTON — Al-Qaeda is becoming less of a threat across much of the Middle East and south Asia with the clear exception of Yemen, top US general David Petraeus said Sunday.
"Our assessment is that over the course of the last year or so, Al-Qaeda has been diminished in that area," Petraeus, said referring to his zone of command stretching from east Africa through the Middle East to Pakistan and Kazakhstan.
"Saudi Arabia and the other peninsula countries have continued to make gains with the obvious exception of Yemen," Petraeus, the head of US Central Command, told NBC television's "Meet the Press" program.
Yemen is home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot branch of Osama bin Laden's terror network that claimed responsibility for the botched Christmas Day suicide bombing of a Detroit-bound passenger plane.
A radical Yemeni cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, had reported links to both major Nidal Hasan, who went on a deadly shooting rampage in Texas in November, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young Nigerian detained for the failed jet bombing.
"Progress has continued against Al-Qaeda in Iraq, although again, there are certainly remaining threats there and we see those periodically shown in the form of horrific, barbaric attacks," Petraeus said.
"There has been progress against Al-Qaeda's senior leadership in the (Pakistani) Federally Administered Tribal areas as well," he said.
Petraeus, however, warned that Al-Qaeda was "flexible" and "adaptable".
"It may be barbaric. It may believe in extremist ideology as it does, but this is a thinking, adaptive enemy. We must maintain pressure on it everywhere. It is a network."