Af-Pak remains main area for al Qaeda attacks

Afghanistan and Pakistan remains a number-one area as the launch point for strategic attacks from al-Qaeda terror network, a top Pentagon official said Wednesday.

Updated: Mar 28, 2012, 16:06 PM IST

Washington: Afghanistan and Pakistan remains
a number-one area as the launch point for strategic attacks from al-Qaeda terror network, a top Pentagon official said
Wednesday.

"The kinetic action has primarily focused in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and increasingly in the Horn of Africa as well
as once in a while in Yemen -- in those three areas. So the
primary interest for me for al-Qaeda has always been
Pakistan," said Michael Sheehan, Assistant Secretary of
Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict.

"Even when al-Qaeda was in Afghanistan prior to 9/11,
they moved through Pakistan. So that remains a number-one area
as the launch point for strategic attacks from al-Qaeda. But,
increasingly," Sheehan said at a Congressional hearing.

Sheehan said that in implementing the counter-terrorism
strategy, the US will continue to focus on al-Qaeda`s activity
originating from western Pakistan and the FATA.

"We`ve made great progress on this front, but al-Qaeda is
a highly adaptive organisation. We must continue to work with
Pakistan to address the threats emanating from this region,"
he said.

"Another important front against al-Qaeda is on the
Arabian Peninsula which poses a direct threat to our interests
and interests of our partners. We`ve made numerous important
gains over the last year against AQAP but the group`s
capabilities and intent to conduct a terrorist attack against
the US continue to represent a serious threat," he said.

In his prepared statement, Sheehan said the US has made
progress in the past decade since the 9/11 in confronting
al-Qaeda, its associated forces and its adherents.

"I see three primary reasons for our success in
preventing another terrorist attack on US soil. First, we have
taken down the al-Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan," he said.

"Second, we have maintained constant pressure on the
al-Qaeda network around the globe, including in Pakistan`s
Federally Administered Tribal Areas, crushing the ability of
al-Qaeda to conduct strategic attacks.

"Lastly, we have built broad international cooperation by
developing strong counterterrorism partnerships with countries
around the globe," Sheehan said.

"We have ended our combat role in Iraq, and in
Afghanistan we are transitioning increasing responsibility to
the Afghan government and security forces," he said.

"What will not change is our focus on aggressively
deterring, disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and
its associated forces and adherents around the world, while
maintaining vigilance against other terrorist organizations
that threaten or have the potential to threaten the United
States and our allies," Sheehan said.

PTI