Al Qaeda using Pakistan to rebuild leadership: US

May 1st, 2008 - 11:25 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 1 (IANS) Al Qaeda has used tribal areas of Pakistan to rebuild its leadership and replace killed or captured fighters, and has forged regional alliances with militants in Africa, according to the US State Department. A cease-fire negotiated by Pakistan in early 2007 gave Al Qaeda leaders “greater mobility and ability to conduct training and operational planning, particularly that targeting Western Europe and the United States,” its annual terrorism report said.

But officials voiced cautious support for the new government of Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who has vowed that rooting out terrorism in tribal areas that have been extremist hotbeds would be Islamabad’s highest priority.

“This government has a chance to really move forward in its own security internally,” said Dell Dailey, coordinator of the State Department Office for Counter-terrorism brfiefing media on the report Wednesday.

Al Qaeda was “weaker now than it was” when it carried out the Sep 11 attacks - the result of United Nations and other multilateral anti-terrorist efforts as well as rising awareness among target countries, the report said.

Pakistan, the report noted, saw a year-on-year 100 percent increase in terrorist attacks in 2007, while attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan rose to 1,127 from 969 in the previous year.

Commenting on the report, White House press secretary Dana Perino expressed concern about a ceasefire agreement between the new government of Pakistan and Taliban leaders in its Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the border with Afghanistan.

“Obviously this is something that was tried before. It did not work before. It’s important that any agreement be effectively enforced and that it not interrupt any operations where we are going after terrorists in that area,” she said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack too reacted cautiously. “Well, we’ ll see. We’ll see what comes of this effort.”

“We understand that it is an attempt on the part of the Pakistani Government to try to peel away those people who are reconcilable to a political process. So, this is an attempt on the part of the Pakistani Government to try to achieve a positive goal. And certainly, we support that.”

“As for what this might produce, we’ll see. We don’t yet know. There have been attempts in the past that have not succeeded,” he noted. “That’s a tough problem. So we’ll see what the current effort yields. It’s too early to tell.”

The report said international terror organizations, including Al Qaeda and its supporters, operated and carried out attacks in Pakistan. Violence stemming from Sunni-Shia sectarian strife and militant sub-nationalists also claimed civilian lives.

Al Qaeda’s continued public calls for the overthrow of Musharraf remained a threat to Pakistan, despite government efforts to eliminate Al Qaeda elements. Pakistan continued to pursue Al Qaeda and its allies through nationwide police action and military operations in the FATA and elsewhere.

The US commitment to a long-term relationship with Pakistan is highlighted by President George Bush’s pledge to Pakistani President Musharraf to seek from Congress $3 billion in Economic Support Funds and Foreign Military Financing for Pakistan during the 2005-2009, the report said.

Since 2002, US assistance to Pakistan, including Coalition Support Funds (CSF), totals $9.92 billion. The Administration has requested $845 million in assistance for Pakistan for FY-2008 and is requesting $785 million for FY-2009.

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