Al Qaeda’s senior leadership rooted in Pakistan’s western region: US

May 11th, 2009 - 1:01 pm ICT by ANI  

Taliban Washington, May 11 (ANI): A top US general has said that al Qaeda’s senior leadership has moved to the western region of Pakistan, and warned that the next few weeks would be pivotal for the country’s future.

General David Petraeus, the head of the US Central Command, noted that Pakistanis have also realised this and had galvanised themselves to protect their country from militants.

He said affiliated groups have “enclaves and sanctuaries” in Afghanistan and that “tentacles of al Qaeda” have touched countries throughout the Middle East and northern Africa.

But according to General Petraeus the terrorist group has suffered “very significant losses” in recent months, and agreed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent assessment that there is no al Qaeda based in his country.

Still, he said he believes Osama bin Laden and his No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri remain in charge of the terrorist network, FOX News reports.

“They surface periodically. We see communications that they send out. Nobody can provide an accurate location for either terrorist, but al Qaeda’s senior leadership clearly is now rooted in the border region of western Pakistan,” General Petraeus added.

“The actions of the Pakistani Taliban seem to have galvanised all of Pakistan. There is a degree of unanimity that there must be swift and effective action taken against the Taliban,” he said.

The Obama Administration has strongly backed the offensive launched last week when President Asif Ali Zardari was in Washington seeking support for fighting the militancy, which General Petraeus said was a threat to the entire international community.

“Certainly the next few weeks will be very important in this effort to roll back, if you will, this existential threat - a true threat to Pakistan’s very existence that has been posed by the Pakistani Taliban,” he added.

The general dismissed the suggestion that if the fight against the Taliban intensifies, it could also endanger Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

“With respect to the nuclear weapons and sites that are controlled by Pakistan, as President Obama mentioned the other day, we have confidence in their security procedures and elements and believe that the security of those sites is adequate,” he said. (ANI)

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