‘Af-Pak border still a major safe haven for terrorists’
Last Updated: Sunday, September 13, 2009, 21:51
Washington: The Pakistan, Afghanistan border is still a "major safe haven" for terrorists and clearing out al Qaeda and Taliban remains America's "bona fide" mission in the region, a powerful US Senator said on Sunday.

"I can say and I think you would agree that Afghanistan and the Pakistani border are still the major safe haven, the major safe haven for terrorists in the world," Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told CNN in an interview.

She said the region remains crucial despite many of the Taliban commanders being eliminated recently, she said.

"These are people who will, if they can, come after us, not necessarily the Taliban, but certainly al Qaeda and other affiliated groups," she said on the current situation in the region.

As of now there are about 60,000 US troops in Afghanistan and 8,000 are moving in. With its allies, this equals the force that is in Iraq.

"I do believe that clearing out al Qaeda, clearing out the Taliban is a bona fide part one of the mission. I do agree that training Afghan troops, Afghan police is an important piece of the mission," Feinstein said, even as she indicated that the US has to reduce its goal with regard to Afghanistan.

"I do not believe we can build a democratic state in Afghanistan. I believe it will remain a tribal entity," she said.

Feinstein, the Senator from California, argued that the mission should be time limited. "I think the Congress is entitled to know, after Iraq, exactly how long are we going to be in Afghanistan," Feinstein said.

"So there's the mission and the time. And from an intelligence point of view, I think gains have been made. I think the use of drones have been effective, in terms of targeting leadership with careful intelligence. I think that's been one of the unsung successes," she said.

Appearing on the same Sunday talk show, Senator Susan Collins favoured the need to increase the size of the Afghan Army and police.

"Having spent two days there just last month, that I just don't know that more troops is the answer," Collins said.

"We clearly need more American civilians to help build up institutions. We need to grow the size of the Afghan Army, but we're dealing with widespread corruption, a very difficult terrain, and I'm just wondering where this ends and how we'll know when we've succeeded," Collins said.

Bureau Report

First Published: Sunday, September 13, 2009, 21:51

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