* US analyst says top Al Qaeda leaders Osama and Al Zawahiri could well be in Pakistan
* Says militants want a revived Islamic caliphate from the ashes of broken Pakistan
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: A former senior US official said that Pakistan was the “real front line in the war against Al Qaedaï¿½?, but it is the “most frightening concernï¿½? that Al Qaeda was in pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution said that Pakistan was the world’s only Muslim state with nuclear weapons, and that in the last decade a former CIA chief George Tenet had said that Al Qaeda was making efforts to get its hands on a Pakistani nuclear device. “Today, it has a secure operating base in the country, its leadership is issuing constant guidance to its global supporters, it is threatening NATO’s position in Afghanistan through its Taliban allies and it is now a growing force in Pakistan itself. The current political crisis in Pakistan is endangering the secular democratic forces in the country, polarising the debate about the country’s future and strengthening Al Qaeda’s Islamist partners.
Al Qaeda leaders:
Writing in the Combating Terrorism Centre Sentinel — a new publication of the US Military Academy, West Point — Riedel is of the view that Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri could well be in any of Pakistanan’s areas that are now increasingly getting out of the control of the central government and essentially lawless. “From Balochistan to Kashmir, much of western Pakistan is sympathetic to Al Qaeda’s message and remains an open field where they can operate. Even in the urban areas, Al Qaeda operatives have been able to attack key targets, including military posts, with increasingly deadly results,ï¿½? he said. “Most concerning is that the resurgence of the Al Qaeda-Taliban alliance in Pakistan has created a safe operating base for the global jihadist movement to train and recruit operatives from Western Europe and other major European cities.
“It seeks to destroy the secular political leadership and civil society that offers an alternative to its extremist Salafist Islamic preaching. Al Qaeda’s goal in Pakistan is to polarise the country into warring factions, break the back of civil and secular society and ultimately see its allies in the Pakistani Islamist movement seize power.