‘Al Qaeda leadership has moved to Pakistan’

May 10th, 2009 - 11:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 10 (IANS) A top US military commander said Sunday that the senior leadership of Al Qaeda has moved to the western region of Pakistan and the terrorist group is no longer operating in Afghanistan.

Gen. David Petraeus, head of US Central Command, said Al Qaeda has suffered “very significant losses” in recent months, but he still believes that Osama bin Laden and his No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri remain in charge of the terrorist network.

“They surface periodically. We see communications that they send out,” he said speaking on “FOX News Sunday”.

Though nobody can provide an accurate location for either terrorist, he said Al Qaeda senior leadership clearly is rooted in the border region of western Pakistan.

“There’s no question that Al Qaeda’s senior leadership has been there and has been in operation for years,” Petraeus said.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union”, Petraeus said Al Qaeda “is a syndicate of extremist organisations - some of which are truly transnational extremists”.

“They do come in and out of Afghanistan. But Al Qaeda - precise Al Qaeda, if you will - is not based per se in Afghanistan. Although its elements and certainly its affiliates… certainly do have enclaves and sanctuaries in certain parts of eastern Afghanistan,” Petraeus said.

The military commander added that the local, Afghani version of Al Qaeda is still present in several districts of the country.

“The federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan - that very, very mountainous, rugged terrain - just east of the Afghan border and in the western part of Pakistan is the locus of the leadership of these organisations although they do, again, go into Afghanistan and conduct operations against our troops.”

Asked about recent comments by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that Al Qaeda was no longer based in his country, Petraeus said: “I think that’s an accurate assessment.”

Petraeus warned of the severe threat extremist groups now pose to Pakistan but praised the US ally for what he described as a coordinated campaign to beat back an uprising of Taliban forces.

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