US fears over al-Qaeda in Pakistan

New report lists al-Qaeda as biggest threat and says Pakistan is key battleground.

    Pakistan is under pressure from the US to
    crack down on fighters [EPA]

    And it said that efforts to combat the Taliban in Afghanistan in particular needed a global approach.

    "The international community's assistance to the Afghan government to build counterinsurgency capabilities, ensure legitimate and effective governance, and counter the surge in narcotics cultivation is essential to the effort to defeat the Taliban and other insurgent groups and criminal gangs," it said.

    'Gravely concerned'

    The White House has made Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan a central plank of its foreign policy, with Barack Obama, the US president, to send 21,000 more US troops to Afghanistan and asking congress for aid to assist the Pakistani army.

    Obama has also put pressure on Pakistan to produce results in its efforts to combat the Taliban and al-Qaeda, saying in a news conference on Thursday he remained "gravely concerned" about the security situation in the country.

    The US has become increasingly concerned about the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan, a US ally seen as vital to stabilising Afghanistan, as the Taliban have advanced from their Swat valley stronghold to within 100km of Pakistan's capital.

    Obama's comments came after Pakistani troops were reported to have regained control of the main town in Buner district from the Taliban in the country's North West Frontier Province.

    In total, attacks in South Asia, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, accounted for 35 per cent of the 11,770 attacks that took place worldwide in 2008, the report said.

    However, the total number of terror attacks fell from 14,506 in 2007 and the number of deaths also dropped to 15,765 from 22,508.

    The report said the threat from al-Qaeda in Iraq had diminished following defections and a loss of funding and control in key areas and "improved capabilities" of Iraqi forces and Sunni tribes' so-called Awakening Councils.

    Iran was also strongly criticised as the "most significant state sponsor of terrorism", with the report saying Iran continued to employ "terrorism to advance its key national security and foreign policy interests".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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