Al Qaeda’s centre of gravity is Pakistan, not Afghanistan, a former top official of the US Armed forces has told lawmakers.
“The Al Qaeda centre of gravity is not Afghanistan. It is Pakistan. A loss of Afghanistan is a win for the Taliban and the Al Qaeda in Pakistan with potential serious consequences for Pakistan,” General (rtd) Jack Keane, former Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army said yesterday in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing on Afghanistan.
Noting that it is not about how many al Qaeda fighters are in Afghanistan, but how the al Qaeda network enables, trains and supports the Taliban, Keane said the two cannot be separated.
“We cannot conveniently separate the two. If we lose in Afghanistan, the al Qaeda will be right behind the Taliban as they take over. Make no mistake. Pakistan is a far more consequential country strategically, mostly because of nuclear weapons but also because of the size and influence of the country,” he said.
Therefore, he argued, it is appropriate to link the stability of both of these countries together as US strategic goals and national interests.
“One of our major challenges with the political and military leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan is their scepticism surrounding the United States’ commitment to their country’s stability and our resolve to stay the course. Given our track record in both countries, these doubts are well founded, which clearly affect their attitudes and behaviour,” Keane said.