South Asia Remains Important to Terror War
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 22, 2004 The Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks put South Asia "on the front lines of the global war on terror," a senior U.S. State Department official told a House panel today. Now the region "stands at the verge of a number of potential breakthroughs."
Coming years "will provide a crucial opportunity for the U.S. to help South Asia become a peaceful, democratic and prosperous region, free from terror and nuclear threat," said Christina Rocca, assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs before the House International Relations Committee.
South Asia includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
U.S., coalition and Afghan forces, Rocca pointed out, "are winning and consolidating the peace in Afghanistan," noting that achieving success against terrorists there "is crucial" to lasting regional stability.
"Pakistan," Rocca remarked, "continues as a major (U.S.) ally in the war on terror." Al Qaeda and Taliban members, she noted, are still being caught there, as the Pakistani government has stepped up its anti-terrorist operations.
In fact, Rocca noted that 77 Pakistani soldiers have been killed while conducting anti-terrorist operations in tribal areas since the beginning of the year.
"Other security personnel have been killed in Karachi and elsewhere" in Pakistan," she said, while "numerous" Pakistani civilians have been murdered in terrorist attacks. Rocca offered her condolences to families and friends "of those lost on the Pakistani front."
Rocca pointed to the dismantling of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadir Khan's alleged operation that dealt in nuclear arms. Exposure and investigation by various governments including Pakistan -- of Khan's alleged activities, she said, "disrupted his black market proliferation network."
And recent non-combative dialogue between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and other issues, Rocca pointed out, constitutes "a real breakthrough" for peace and stability in the region.
She cited democratic Bangladesh - with the world's fourth most populous Muslim population -- as "a valued partner in the war on terror." Rocca also praised Bangladesh for being a leading contributor to U.N. peacekeeping missions.
Although the region faces challenges, Rocca expressed confidence "that the countries and peoples of South Asia will be able to build a secure, peaceful and prosperous future."