Washington: Border areas of Pakistan alongside neighbouring Afghanistan are the "epicentre of terrorism" in the world and the Pakistan Army continues to be "India-centric", a top US military official has said.
"Resident in that border area, mostly in Pakistan, although not entirely, I call it the epicentre of terrorism in the world," Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in response to a question at the John F Kennedy Jr Forum at the Harvard University in Boston.
"It isn`t just al Qaeda or the Pakistan Taliban, it`s the Afghan Taliban, it`s LeT, which has migrated from an India-focused organisation in the east to the west, and in fact has broader aspirations than that right now.
"So it has become very synergistic in that part of the world, and that`s why we`re so focused on it," Mullen said. Noting that Pakistan has taken some strong steps in combating terrorism in the region in recent years, Mullen said the Pak Army continues to be "India-centric".
"You`ve had a military that has had to convert from a conventional force to a counterinsurgency force. Yet there`s also the focus on your eastern border, certainly on India. That hasn`t gone away.”
"Certainly one of the things I`ve learned, that`s not going away in the near future. I think that`s also something, from a policy standpoint, that has to be addressed as a part of all of this," Mullen said.
He said the US constantly engages with the Pakistan government, not just the military.
"Because part of this is certainly security, but Pakistan`s a country whose economy is struggling. Some of that is recent, some of that is long term. And not unlike the answer over here, security`s certainly a critical part of it.”
"But in the long run Pakistan has to have a healthier economy. They there has to be a government that responds in ways that makes a difference for the Pakistani people,” Mullen said.
Mullen said there are a number of factors that make the Afghan-Pakistan border region especially dangerous to the source of terrorism and instability and that explains why the President Barack Obama has made such a steadfast commitment to "disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda" and its related networks and to denying them sanctuary in these countries.
"While we`ve made genuine progress against these networks, disrupting their operations and eliminating key leaders, they continue to actively plot new attacks against us and our allies, and they remain capable of striking the American homeland," he said.
Mullen said the presence of nuclear weapons in Pakistan only heightens the importance of denying al Qaeda and related networks any lasting foothold in the region.
"We know that these networks actively seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would actually use them if they obtained them," he said.