Monday, December 05, 2005

Al Qaeda 'comfortable' in Pakistan

From Washington Post Foreign Service Blast in Pakistan Kills Al Qaeda Commander: Sunday, December 4, 2005...

Figure Reportedly Hit by U.S. Missile Strike
By Craig Whitlock and Kamran Khan

BERLIN, Dec. 3 -- The killing of an al Qaeda commander in a U.S.-led operation in a remote corner of Pakistan marks an advance in the struggle to locate and eliminate the network's leadership, which has managed to replenish its ranks after suffering key losses in recent years, counterterrorism officials and experts said Saturday.

..."It's a success story, but al Qaeda has turned into a multi-headed hydra: you chop off one head and another head takes its place," said Magnus Ranstorp, a specialist on al Qaeda at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm. "It's a good thing they got him, but I'm sure there are others in the wings who are ready to play a similar role."

... there is no indication that U.S. or Pakistani forces have come closer to locating their biggest targets: al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, who are still believed to be hiding in the region.

... U.S. officials have become increasingly frustrated with what they see as limited cooperation from the Pakistani military and intelligence services in the hunt for bin Laden.

In June, CIA Director Porter J. Goss said he had "an excellent idea" where bin Laden was hiding but lamented that the al Qaeda leader had taken advantage of "sanctuaries in sovereign states" beyond American reach...U.S. and European officials said bin Laden had almost certainly taken refuge in the semi-autonomous tribal areas near the Afghan border.

Musharraf has recently acknowledged that he is not eager for bin Laden to be caught in his country, where he is seen as a hero to many and is probably more popular than Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 bloodless military coup. "One would prefer that he's captured somewhere outside Pakistan, by some other people," he said in an October interview with Time magazine.

Counterterrorism officials and analysts said Pakistan serves not just as a hiding place but as an effective base of operations for al Qaeda and other Islamic radical networks, giving them the ability to plan or carry out attacks around the world.

..."The real point here is that Musharraf is not making any dent in the issue that matters -- which is that the extremists are still operating rather freely in Pakistan and feel as comfortable there as ever," said M.J. Gohel, chief executive of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, a London research institute that specializes in security issues in South Asia. "What you need is to completely eradicate and eliminate the entire extremist infrastructure, but nothing has been done there. What has been done is the capture of individuals now and then to please Washington......

Khan reported from Karachi, Pakistan. Staff writer Dafna Linzer and researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.

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