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CIA head says bin Laden isolated, fighting to survive

    * Story Highlights
    * Bin Laden isolated from al Qaeda's daily operations, Michael Hayden says
    * "He is putting a lot of energy into his own survival," Hayden tells 
Atlantic Council
    * Hayden says CIA believes capturing bin Laden would be huge blow to al 
    * Hayden says al Qaeda hurt by sustained fights with U.S. but remains a 

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. intelligence agencies believe Osama bin Laden is 
isolated from al Qaeda and spending much of his energy merely surviving, the 
head of the CIA said on Thursday.

CIA Director Michael Hayden said hunting down bin Laden remains his agency's 

"He is putting a lot of energy into his own survival -- a lot of energy into 
his own security," Hayden said in a speech at the Atlantic Council in 

"In fact, he appears to be largely isolated from the day-to-day operations of 
the organization he nominally heads," he said.

In recent weeks, there have been several U.S. missile strikes by unmanned 
drones around the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The United States maintains that Taliban and al Qaeda forces operate with 
relative impunity in tribal areas along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan and 
use those areas as staging grounds to attack U.S. forces and their allies 
inside Afghanistan.

Hayden said al Qaeda has been hurt by a sustained fight with the United States 
and its allies, but remains a threat.

"Al Qaeda has suffered serious setbacks, but it remains a determined, adaptive 
enemy unlike any our nation has ever faced," Hayden said. "The war is far from 

Regardless of whether bin Laden is actively helping lead the terrorist 
organization, the CIA believes capturing or killing him would be a huge blow to 
al Qaeda, according to Hayden.

"This is an organization that has never been through a change at the top," he 
said. "For 20 years, bin Laden has been the visionary, the inspiration or 
harmonizing force behind al Qaeda."

Hayden said it remained to be seen whether bin Laden's deputy, Ayman 
al-Zawahiri, could maintain unity in the ranks without him.

"The truth is, we simply don't know what would happen if bin Laden is killed or 
captured. But I'm willing to bet that whatever happens, it would work in our 
favor," Hayden said.

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