Washington: Al Qaeda and its extremist allies are under tremendous pressure in Pakistan and Afghanistan and the global terror network has been weakened elsewhere by popular Muslim disaffection due to its targeting of the community people, a top US official has said.
"In the key countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the group is under serious pressure," Robert F Godec, Principal Deputy Co-coordinator for Terrorism in the State Department said. There us "growing resolve" in both Afghanistan and Pakistan to "defeat" al Qaeda, he added.
"While al Qaeda has had some successes over the years, it has also suffered a number of important setbacks recently. Al Qaeda has been weakened by popular Muslim disaffection from its indiscriminate targeting of Muslims in Algeria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, and elsewhere.”
“The number of imams, clerics and former militants speaking out against the organisation is increasing. This is a positive and important story," he said.
There us "growing resolve" in both Afghanistan and Pakistan to "defeat" al Qaeda, he said, adding that "Pakistani authorities have captured the largest number of al Qaeda and affiliated violent extremist operatives in the world, a demonstration of their commitment to this fight."
Pakistani military operations have been aimed at eliminating some of the militant strongholds in the Federally Administered Territories, he said.
"Al Qaeda has lost many of its leaders and is finding it more difficult to raise money, train recruits, and plan attacks outside of the region," said the State Department official.
But while al Qaeda is now struggling in some areas, the threat it poses is becoming more widely distributed, more geographically diversified, Godec noted.
"The rise of affiliated groups, such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (in Yemen) and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, is a new and important development and is also a troubling development.”
“Americans saw this dramatically with the failed attempt by al Qaeda on December 25 to blow up a US commercial airliner over Detroit," he said.
This incident demonstrated that AQAP, at least, has not just the will but also the capability to target the United States at home, he added.
Godec said as the threat of al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates continues to evolve, adapt and change, the US and its partners must also make progress.
"And there is much work to be done. One area that needs further attention is multilateral and regional organisations," he said.
"Under President Obama, the United States seeks deeper, stronger engagement with our international partners so that we may work together to forge policies that will help us collectively to defeat the menace of al Qaeda.”
“Many of the countries that you all come from are among our strongest friends and best allies in this fight," Godec said.
"For violent extremism is a common challenge shared by nations across the globe-one that requires vigorous cooperation-and one that the United States cannot solve alone," he said, adding the administration has been working to reinvigorate alliances across the board and has reengaged in
multilateral organisations concerned with counter terrorism including the UN entities, the G8, and the vast range of regional groups that work on counter terrorism.
In the past eight years, the United States has made great strides in what might be called tactical counter terrorism - taking individual terrorists off the streets, and disrupting cells and their operations.
"But an effective counter terrorism strategy must go beyond this," he asserted.
"Military power, intelligence operations, and law enforcement efforts alone will not solve the long-term challenge that we face - the threat of violent extremism.”
“Instead, we must look as well to the political, economic, and social factors that terrorist organisations exploit and to the ideology that is their key instrument in pushing vulnerable individuals down the path toward violence," Godec said.