Rebel safe havens continue to exist in Pakistan: US
WASHINGTON (PAN): Several dangerous terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, Taliban and Lashkar-i-Taiba, continue to have safe havens in Pakistan, as half-hearted approach by the army has failed to yield the desired results, a US governmental report has said.
"Despite increased efforts by Pakistani security forces, Al Qaeda, Afghan militants, foreign insurgents and Pakistani militants continued to find safe haven in portions of Federally Administered Tribal Areas of NWFP and Baluchistan," said the Government Accountability Office.
In the 51-page report "Combating Terrorism: US Government Should Improve Its Reporting on Terrorist Safe Havens," the group said Al Qaeda and other outfits such as the Haqqani Network used FATA to launch attacks in Afghanistan.
Under the umbrella of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the rebels also use the tribal badlands to plan attacks against civilian and military targets across the country. Outside FATA, Quetta-based Afghan Taliban and other insurgent organisations like the Gulbadin Hekmatyar-led Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan have hideouts in Balochistan and the NWFP.
"In Pakistan, several terrorist organisations maintain safe havens, including the core of Al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, LeT. Each group has either attempted attacks against the United States or has used American interests as legitimate targets," an official said.
"For example, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the failed vehicle bombing in New York City's Times Square in 2010," said Jacquie Williams Bridgers, the managing director for International Affairs and Trade at the Government Accountability Office, in an appearance before a congressional committee.
"It is difficult to determine how many terrorist groups operate out of Pakistan, but we do know Al Qaeda, Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban and other groups use this country as a staging ground for attacks on US troops," said Congressman Michael McCaul, who chaired the hearing.
Shari Villarosa, deputy coordinator for regional affairs at the Department of State, said the US would continue to press Pakistan for increased action against terrorist groups operating within its borders. "But we must also continue to help Pakistan help itself to eliminate terrorist safe havens."
She stressed the US should remain very closely engaged with Pakistan. "If we are going to succeed in our ultimate goal of defeating Al Qaeda, we must work with Pakistan. The security assistance that we are providing is enabling them to take action against terrorists. We have our differences with the Pakistani government, and we reiterate them regularly."
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