Al Qaeda exploits Pakistan’s tribal areas to regain ground: US

May 1st, 2009 - 8:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 1 (IANS) While Al Qaeda remains the greatest terrorist threat to the United States, the group has regained some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities through the exploitation of Pakistan’s tribal areas, a new State Department report says.

Other factors in resurgence of Al Qaeda are “the replacement of captured or killed operational lieutenants, and the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri,” said the State Department’s annual report on global terrorism released Thursday.

In the years since the Sep 11, 2001 terror attacks on the US, Al Qaeda and its extremist allies have moved from Afghanistan “to the remote areas of the Pakistani frontier where they have used this terrain as a safe haven to hide, train terrorists, communicate with followers, plot attacks, and send fighters to support the insurgency in Afghanistan”, it noted.

“Therefore, Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) provided Al Qaeda many of the benefits it once derived from its base across the border in Afghanistan.”

The Taliban and other insurgent groups and criminal gangs, some of whom were linked to Al Qaeda and terrorist sponsors outside the country, control parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan and threaten the stability of the region, it said.

Noting that attacks against US troops, NATO allies, and the Afghan government have risen steadily, the report said: “Taliban insurgents murdered local leaders and attacked Pakistani government outposts in the FATA of Pakistan.

“Ideological allies of the Taliban conducted frequent attacks in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), particularly in the Swat Valley, and have extended operations in to the Punjab and the capital city of Islamabad. Suicide bombers are increasingly used to target Pakistanis, in addition to conducting cross-border raids.”

However, the report said significant achievements “were made this year against terrorist leadership targets, notably the capturing or killing of key terrorist leaders in Pakistan, Iraq and Colombia”.

“Working with allies and partners across the world, we have created a less permissive operating environment for terrorists, keeping terrorist leaders on the move or in hiding, and degrading their ability to plan and mount attacks,” it said crediting Pakistan among others with playing “major roles in this success”.

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