FORMER CIA chief Michael Scheuer, who led a team dedicated to hunting down bin Laden during the 1990s, claimed the West simply does not understand the conflict. He said that although the killing of the Al Qaeda founder was 'very important' the organisation was as strong as ever and is far more connected than many believe. Mr Scheuer, now a teacher at Georgetown University, told the Times newspaper: 'In 2001 [Al Qaeda] was overwhelmingly based in Afghanistan. 'It still has a part of Afghanistan. It now has a big part of Pakistan [and is] firmly established Yemen and recovering in Iraq.' Mr Scheuer warned that with recent events in Libya the organisation could grow in that region and that Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan might all become hotspots. He says he believes the leadership of Al-Qaeda will probably pass to Abu Yahya al-Libi who escaped a US prison in Afghanistan in 2006. Mr Scheuer also rejected president Obama's claim that the recent uprisings in Arab countries were a 'rebuke to the world view of Al Qaeda'. He said: 'If he was what Mr Obama said... a thug and a bandit who had nothing to do with Islam, he would have never risen to anything more than a lethal nuisance. 'But because he was a smart guy, a pious Muslim, and because he matched his words with deeds, he was not only a problem when he was alive. 'We in the West have come away from the Egypt experience thinking democracy is on the march there. 'I doubt it. We have listened to the folks who we agree with and say the things we want to hear.' Mr Scheuer, who has written a biography of Bin Laden and is due to talk on Sunday at the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, thinks that American foreign policy is partly to balme for the strength of Al Qaeda and its ability to recruit new personnel. He said: 'It is support for Israel, support for the Saudi police state, it's our presence in the Arab peninsula, it's support for the Russians in the Islamic Caucuses.'There is no more effective recruiter for Al Qaeda than the status quo of American foreign policy.'