Washington: The US is not facing any significant terror threat from Afghanistan, but such dangers are now emanating from neighbouring Pakistan, a senior American official said.
“We haven’t seen a terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan for the past seven or eight years,” the Obama administration official said on condition of anonymity.
There has been fighting and threats inside Afghanistan, but “the assessment is that they number anywhere between 50, 75 or so al-Qaeda types, that are embedded in the Haqqani network, doing basically tactical fighting units inside of Afghanistan.”
The official said the terrorists are focused inside Afghanistan and there is “no indication at all” that there is any effort within Afghanistan to the country as a launching pad to carry out attacks outside of borders.
“The threat has come from Pakistan over the past half-dozen years or so, and longer.
“And what we’ve been able to do, particularly over the last year, but through the course of the last two-and-a-half years of this administration, is to degrade al-Qaeda core’s capabilities significantly,” he said.
The official said the US forces have wiped off several key terror leaders and succeeded weakening al-Qaeda.
“We’ve taken out of commission a number of operatives that were in the pipeline to carry out attacks outside of Pakistan.”
The official said: “We have taken a significant number of key senior leaders off of the battlefield. In addition to (Osama) bin Laden, there are individuals like Saeed al-Masri and others who had been critical to al-Qaeda’s operational and organisational capabilities over the last dozen years.”
The official said they have degraded al-Qaeda’s ability to conduct training in the FATA and Waziristan area.
“We’ve taken off of the battlefield also explosive experts and different commanders who were in charge of different units that are designed to carry out terrorist attacks abroad.”
The Obama administration official said: “This degradation of al-Qaeda’s capabilities has also been accompanied by a very unsafe environment within Waziristan. It’s not been a safe haven for quite a while.”
This has also slowed significantly the flow of recruits into Afghanistan, he said.
“A number of al-Qaeda types have been looking for other areas because they have said that they have not been able to carry out their activities in the area,” he said.
“(We are) Working with the Pakistanis whenever we can, but also working on our own… we have been able to put in place the framework that includes sources from a technical and human standpoint, as well as an architecture that we can prosecute our efforts with our Pakistani partners when we’re able.
“(US wants to) make sure that we’re able to use the intelligence that we’ve been able to gain in that area, and to prosecute the efforts to take off of the battlefield significant numbers of al-Qaeda and associated militant types,” the official said.
He said although there has been a lot of media attention on the Pakistani push-back on certain programmes, but the truth is that a number of individuals within the Pakistani counter-terrorism environment see that US’ capabilities are not just impressive, but also needed as a way to degrade the capabilities of al-Qaeda.