Al Qaeda core leadership living in Pakistan: US report

February 9th, 2010 - 8:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, Feb 9 (IANS) Al Qaeda has evolved into a “diffused global network” with its core leadership living in northwest Pakistan, where it continues to train operatives, recruit, and disseminate propaganda, according to a new US Congressional report.

“Al Qaeda has evolved into a significantly different terrorist organization than the one that perpetrated the September 11, 2001, attacks,” the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in a report titled ‘Al Qaeda and Affiliates: Historical Perspective, Global Presence, and Implications for US Policy’.

“Some analysts describe pre-9/11 Al Qaeda as akin to a corporation, with Osama Bin Laden acting as an agile Chief Executive Officer issuing orders and soliciting ideas from subordinates,” said the report for US lawmakers.

However, “out of necessity, due to pressures from the security community, in the ensuing years it has transformed into a diffused global network and philosophical movement composed of dispersed nodes with varying degrees of independence,” CRS said.

“The core leadership, headed by Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, is thought to live in the mountainous tribal belt of northwest Pakistan, where it continues to train operatives, recruit, and disseminate propaganda,” it said.

“Al Qaeda forces that fled Afghanistan with their Taliban supporters remain active in Pakistan and reportedly have extensive, mutually supportive links with indigenous Pakistani terrorist groups that conduct anti-Western and anti-India attacks,” the report said.

But Al Qaeda franchises or affiliated groups active in countries such as Yemen and Somalia now represent critical power centres in the larger movement, CRS said. “Some affiliates receive money, training, and weapons; others look to the core leadership in Pakistan for strategic guidance, theological justification, and a larger narrative of global struggle.”

The Al Qaeda network today also comprises semi-autonomous or self radicalised actors, who often have only peripheral or ephemeral ties to either the core cadre in Pakistan or affiliated groups elsewhere, CRS said.

Despite the military action taken by the Pakistani Army against the terrorist groups, “US officials remain concerned that Al Qaeda terrorists operate with impunity on Pakistani territory”, it said.

US is also concerned “that the group appears to have increased its influence among the myriad militant groups operating along the Pak-Afghan border, as well as in the densely populated Punjab province”, the report said.

“Al Qaeda leaders have issued statements encouraging Pakistani Muslims to ‘resist’ the American ‘occupiers’ in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to fight against Pakistan’s ‘US-allied politicians and officers’,” the report noted.

Al Qaeda is widely believed to maintain camps in western Pakistan where foreign extremists receive training in terrorist operations, it said.

“By one account, up to 150 Westerners went to western Pakistan to receive terrorism training in 2009. As pressure has mounted on Al Qaeda in western Pakistan in the latter half of 2009, these camps may have become smaller and more mobile,” the CRS said.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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