The United States military must remain in Iraq long enough to ensure that al-Qaida cannot reclaim the safehavens it has lost there, the US Homeland Security secretary said Monday. "It's very important to build on the progress that's been made and make sure al-Qaida can't regain ground that it's lost in Iraq," Michael Chertoff told reporters in neighboring Jordan. "Were we to precipitously withdraw from Iraq and allow al-Qaida to start to regain ground... would have very negative consequences," Chertoff said. "Iraq is still a long and difficult process ahead of us," he said. The Homeland Security chief reiterated US intelligence information disclosed this summer that al-Qaida now had "operatives in the pipeline" to "carry out attacks in Europe or the US"