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Al-Qaida Feels ‘Significant Pressure’ in Pakistan, Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2009 – Al-Qaida terrorists hiding out in Pakistan are coming under increased pressure from that country’s military forces, a senior Defense Department official said here today.

The overarching objective of President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy review “is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and their sanctuaries in Pakistan and to prevent their return to Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the senior official, speaking on background, told Pentagon reporters.

Al-Qaida remains a global terrorist network that also has operations in Yemen and the Horn of Africa, the senior official said, but most of its senior leaders are concentrated in western Pakistan.

Therefore, the official said, achieving victory over al-Qaida “probably means defeating them where they are now, rather than defeating them somewhere else.”

Meanwhile, al-Qaida leaders and operatives in Pakistan “are under very significant pressure,” the official said, and recent Pakistani military operations conducted in the Swat Valley have contributed to that pressure.

For example, the official said, it is now difficult for al-Qaida leaders and operatives to relocate, either within Pakistan or out of that country.

Al-Qaida “got kicked out of Sudan” in 1996 and moved to Afghanistan, the senior official said, but then were forced to leave during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001.

Afterward, al-Qaida migrated from Afghanistan to some settled areas of Pakistan, the senior official said, but they were then forced into the federally administered tribal areas in the country’s northwestern region, and have been ensconced in Pakistan in areas that border Afghanistan since then.

However, al-Qaida now finds itself challenged even to move across Pakistan, and a number of senior al-Qaida leaders who have attempted to move about in Pakistan or across the broader region have been captured over the past few months, the senior official said.

“And, they’re well aware of that” the senior official said, noting al-Qaida operatives in Pakistan are now reluctant to move to points within the country, making even internal safe havens challenging for them.

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