Monday, 23 July 2007 01:39

US Looking at Action Against Al-Qaeda in Pakistan

According to homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, the U.S. will indeed consider using military force in Iraq’s neighbor, Pakistan, if necessary to squash the ability of Al Qaeda's to use Pakistan to hide and launch terrorist attacks. Also endorsing this line of thinking is the Senate's top Democrat endorsed that approach. According to Townsend,  the U.S. is committed first and foremost to working with Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, in his efforts to control militants in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. But she indicated the U.S. was ready to take additional measures.

"Just because we don't speak about things publicly doesn't mean we're not doing things you talk about," Townsend said, when asked in a broadcast interview why the U.S. does not conduct special operations and other measures to cripple Al Qaeda. Job No. 1 is to protect the American people. There are no options off the table," she said. Townsend also said, "No question that we will use any instrument at our disposal" to deal with Al Qaeda and its leader, Usama bin Laden. Responding to earlier comments by Townsend, Pakistan's foreign minister, Khurshid Kasuri, said Sunday that the country's military was in the best position to attack Al Qaeda, if the U.S. provided intelligence.

The national intelligence director, Mike McConnell, said he believed that bin Laden was living in the tribal, border region of Pakistan. Bin Laden is the leader of the Al Qaeda network and mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. McConnell said Musharraf's attempt at a political solution to peace in the region had backfired by giving Al Qaeda a place and time to regroup. "Al Qaeda has been able to regain some of its momentum," McConnell said. "The leadership's intact. They have operational planners, and they have safe haven. The thing they're missing are operatives inside the United States." In the National Intelligence Estimate released last week, analysts stressed the importance of Al Qaeda's increasingly comfortable hideout in Pakistan that has resulted from a hands-off accord between Musharraf and tribal leaders along the Afghan border. McConnell, the nation's intelligence chief, acknowledged that the war in Iraq has served as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. He said coalition forces and local leaders have had some successes in knocking back the terrorist network, particularly in the western region of the country. But when asked if Al Qaeda has a larger, more robust presence in Iraq than before the war began, McConnell said, "That's fair to say."