Al Qaeda central front now in Pakistan
Pakistan has replaced Iraq as al Qaeda's main focus, and the terror group has stepped up its efforts to destabilize the nuclear-armed South Asian nation, according to a senior U.S. military commander.Strategically it makes sense for al Qaeda to focus its operations on Pakistan. They are in retreat in Iraq and in danger when they venture into Afghanistan. Pakistan is the only place where US troops are not in direct combat with al Qaeda's forces on the ground. Still the Predator and Reaper attacks are taking a toll on al Qaeda's leadership and its ability to plan and practice attacks.
"Iraq is now a rear-guard action on the part of al Qaeda," said Gen. James Conway, the head of the Marine Corps and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview. "They've changed their strategic focus not to Afghanistan but to Pakistan, because Pakistan is the closest place where you have the nexus of terrorism and nuclear weapons."
Gen. Conway also offered a stark assessment of the Afghan situation, saying the Taliban has built a rudimentary command-and-control network that enables the group's leadership to direct attacks across the country.
"They move troops around. They resupply. They provide money," he said. "It's effective and it's real. It's not just happenstance that these guys know where to go and what to do."
Gen. Conway said Pakistan's best troops were deployed along its border with India and weren't being used in the fight against the country's militants. Pakistan's leadership doesn't yet seem to accept that terrorism poses an existential risk to the country's future, he added. "Pakistan has to understand there's a dire threat there that they have to act against," he said.
Pakistan's failure to take concerted action against the Islamist fighters has led the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. military's secretive Special Operations Command to launch a wave of missile strikes against insurgent targets inside Pakistan.
The attacks by unmanned aerial drones have killed at least eight senior al Qaeda figures along with dozens of Pakistani civilians. Islamabad has given tacit approval to the strikes, a source of public anger across Pakistan.
Gen. Conway said the attacks had killed al Qaeda figures involved in planning attacks on targets in Europe and the U.S. "It is important that we keep them on the run," he said. Still, he described the strikes as a "high-wire act" that risked damaging relations.
The article does discuss the increased tempo of attacks in Afghanistan, but I think it makes the mistake of others in the media of exaggerating the significance of the increased tempo. We are not in danger of having our forces overrun. We have a force to space problem that gives the Taliban some opportunities in remote areas of the country. We need to deal with that by adding troops and increasing the number of Afghan troops available or holding these areas.