May 11, 2009
General Petraeus: Al Qaeda's Base is Pakistan
Senior leaders of al Qaeda are using sanctuaries in Pakistan's lawless frontier regions to plan new terror attacks and funnel money, manpower and guidance to affiliates around the world, according to a top American military commander.
Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said in an interview that Pakistan has become the nerve center of al Qaeda's global operations, allowing the terror group to re-establish its organizational structure and build stronger ties to al Qaeda offshoots in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, North Africa and parts of Europe.
The comments underscore a growing U.S. belief that Pakistan has displaced Afghanistan as al Qaeda's main stronghold. "It is the headquarters of the al Qaeda senior leadership," said the general, who took the helm of the military's Central Command last fall.
In the interview, Gen. Petraeus also warned of difficult months ahead in Afghanistan, saying Taliban militants are moving weapons and forces into areas where the U.S. is adding troops, planning a "surge" of their own to counter the U.S. plan.
The commander said the U.S. had intelligence showing that the Taliban were deploying new fighters to southern Afghanistan, appointing new local commanders, and prepositioning weapons and other supplies.
"We have every expectation that the Taliban will fight to retain the sanctuaries and safe havens that they've been able to establish," he said.
Gen. Petraeus said U.S. intelligence information suggested that al Qaeda has re-emerged as a centrally directed organization capable of helping to plan attacks in other countries. "There is a degree of hierarchy, there is a degree of interconnection, and there is certainly a flow of people, money, expertise, explosives and knowledge," he said.
Gen. Petraeus painted a picture of a globalized al Qaeda that maintains extensive logistical and communications links to terror groups in Morocco, Somalia and other countries. He said militants and supplies pass through southern Iran, helped by Sunni Arab "facilitators" in the predominantly Shiite Persian country.
A ring of Tunisian suicide bombers who were recently apprehended in Iraq appear to have received their directions from al Qaeda figures in Pakistan as well, he said. "There's absolutely no question about these links," he said.
The Pentagon has looked at possible changes in Afghanistan amid concern over the course of the conflict -- some of which have met resistance from current military leaders including Gen. Petraeus. A task force formed by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is conducting a broad review, according to a copy of its agenda. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to appoint an additional general to handle day-to-day operations there, senior defense officials say. A spokesman for Gen. Petraeus has declined to comment.
Gen. Petraeus spent the past week in Washington as part of the Obama administration's summit with presidents Karzai and Zardari.
Pakistan faces a dual test it has often failed before as soldiers again square off against Taliban militants in the Swat Valley: The country is fighting a counterinsurgency campaign while caring for those displaced by the conflict.
For the past several days, Pakistan's army and the Taliban have been fighting sporadically along the mountain ridges of Swat after a peace deal collapsed. Pakistani officials say they are determined that the offensive will continue until the military asserts control over the 400-square-mile area.
The Pakistani army said Friday it had lost 13 of its own men in the past 24 hours and killed 143 militants. There was no word on civilian casualties. But front-line officers report only slight gains against the thousands of militants in Swat and two neighboring districts, Buner and Lower Dir.
"This is going to be hard fighting, no quarter here. These miscreants know the terrain. They are formidable," said an army major in a telephone interview.
Pakistan's military, built for tank battles and artillery duels against Indian forces on the plains of the subcontinent, has in the past four years struggled through a series of campaigns against the Taliban across the mountains of northwestern Pakistan. Most, like the 18-month battle in Swat, ended in standstill.
The U.S. is stepping up its efforts to try to reshape Pakistan's military into a force that can fight insurgents in the rugged terrain along the Afghan border, where the Taliban and al Qaeda have flourished.
U.S. and Pakistani officials say the Americans will provide night-vision goggles and more helicopters. There are also plans to train Pakistani soldiers in counterinsurgency doctrine and wean them from their reliance on artillery and air power, which often flattens villages and kills more civilians than insurgents.
Still, U.S. officials privately question whether Pakistan's top brass, many of whom still see India as the real threat, are committed to reorienting their forces.
Wild Thing's comment..........
Just a gut feeling here, but I honestly don't think Pakistan has been giving it i100% going after the Taliban. I see in the article it says they did not have all the right kind of equipment so I will give them a break on that. But still, these terrorists needed to be sought and taken out. And they have had so many years at least do even half of what was promised when Bush was President.
God bless General Petraeus for speaking up and sticking to his guns. I liked when it said that General Petraeus had no comment, that says all we need to know in how he felt about what was planned.
Posted by Wild Thing at May 11, 2009 05:47 AM
I would hope that the US is working closely with India on contingency plans in case Pakistan falls. The situation in Pakistan is pretty serious. It is a hot bed of islamic radicalism that has been funded for decades by the Saudis.
Gen Petraeus is quite the soldier. I wish he could say exactly what is on his mind, but I know he has to hold back for security and political reasons.
Posted by: TomR at May 11, 2009 11:28 AM
The wailing and gnashing of teeth this morning about the Pakistan Army killing the Taliban in the SWAT valley is on the front burner, tuff!!! Once again the UN has chosen to side with the enemies of civilzation. The Taliban were given several days notice before the Pakistan Army took action, just like when Thatcher told the Argentinians she was coming to kick their asses over their invasion of the Falkland Islands then took two weeks to get there. It was the Paki's in the Swat Valley's decision to stay and ignore the ultimatum and shelter the Taliban. Right, wrong or indifferent, the West mollycoddles these butchering SOB's when they should be eradicating them just like the Smallpox virus. Thank God we have General Petraeus and not Bowel Powell leading from his G3 bunker. Kill 'em all and let God sort it out!!!
Posted by: Jack at May 11, 2009 02:00 PM
General Patraeus is a great Soldier and will do his duty as he sees fit. The success will depend on how bound his hands are.
Posted by: Mark at May 11, 2009 05:10 PM
Tom, yes your right he must wish he
could talk freely, I wish he could
too. He does a little and I love it.
When he said no comment that was
like he was saying...you all are soooo
wrong. Especially if he said it with a
certain humph in his voice. heh heh
Posted by: Wild Thing at May 11, 2009 07:29 PM
Jack, thank you so much for the links. The
one about Powell I am going to make that
one a post. I have soooo had it with that
Posted by: Wild Thing at May 11, 2009 07:33 PM
Mark, I agree, I smile every time I think
about how CentCom is one hour from where
I live. They are up in Tampa and that is
where General Patraeus is located when he
is not away from home.
Posted by: Wild Thing at May 11, 2009 07:37 PM