Osama bin Laden led Al Qaeda though remains transnational, is basically based in the tribal areas of Pakistan from where it is plotting attacks against the America and its allies, a ex US navy official has said.
Not only this in another dangerous development, Al Qaeda has now teamed up with the Pakistani Taliban in recent attacks in Pakistan and India as well, said Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, a former Navy helicopter pilot with over 20 years operational and intelligence experience, including assignments at the National Security Council and the National Counterterrorism Centre.
“Al Qaeda remains intent on attacking the United States and our friends and allies across the globe.”
The organisation maintains transnational reach but is rooted in Pakistan’s semi-governed tribal areas,” Mr. Nelson said in his testimony before Congressional hearing on Afghanistan.
Mr. Nelson, currently is Senior Fellow, International Security Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies - a Washington-based think tank “On a more immediate level al Qaeda operatives in Northwest Pakistan are believed to have teamed with other militant groups including the TTP, in recent attacks in Pakistan and India.
“Al Qaeda off shoots remains active beyond South Asia.”
Al Qaeda in Iraq gained notoriety for its brutality during the early stages of the Iraq war. While its influence has subsided it still threatens regional stability in the Middle East.
Mr. Nelson said Al Qaeda, despite certain setbacks, remains global in scale and determined to attack the US.
“The epicentre of its power lies in Pakistan’s semi-governed tribal areas,” he said adding that it is important to appreciate how this fact relates to Afghanistan.
“We should require that the US invaded Afghanistan to defeat Al Qaeda, but asking one policy analyst why US and NATO forces remain in Afghanistan today and you’re likely to see a flurry of different responses.
Defeating the Taliban, stabilising the rebuilding of Afghanistan, and maintaining American credibility are just a few of several reasons given in addition to counterterrorism for our continued presence in the country, he said.
“These are all laudable goals, but the White House must ensure that combating global terrorism generally and Al Qaeda specifically remains a strategic anchor in Afghanistan.
Framing American interests in this fashion will lead us to ask important questions of the various strategies now being debated, he said.
Referring to the spate of terrorist attacks against Pakistan in the last one year, he termed it as dangerous and said FATA haven serves as a primary base for Al Qaeda’s global terrorist agenda.
“These developments are troubling, not just because they endanger a nuclear armed regime, but because the US is largely powerless to combat the threat without Pakistani support.
Virtually Pakistan’s military has just become a 30,000 troop - south in Al Qaeda and Taliban controlled territory south Waziristan, the type of campaign that US policy makers have long sought,” he said.
“As Pakistan confronts extremists Northwest, we must careful to ensure that any US troop increases do not push insurgents in Afghanistan across the border.
This would effectively heighten extremist activity in the FATA and make Islamabad’s mission even more difficult,” he said.
“Indeed, in meeting with General Petraeus and Senator Kerry earlier this week, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani asked the US and NATO Forces restrict militant infiltration from Afghanistan into Pakistan.
In the end any regional strategy which shores up Afghanistan while destabilising Pakistan will detract from our goals of combating terrorism,” Mr. Nelson said.