Washington, June 11 : Al-Qaeda leaders operating in Pakistan's tribal areas (FATA) were planning new terrorist attacks against the US, and, hence, it becomes imperative upon the new Pakistan government to take action to eliminate their sanctuary there, a top US military officer has said.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen said that the al-Qaeda threat from Pakistan represented a "huge challenge" for the US, and added that Pakistan had been lacking in its execution of a strategy to eradicate the safe havens for terrorists and insurgents in the lawless region, known as the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas).
Mullen called upon Pakistani authorities to enforce any deals they strike with tribal leaders in FATA and to require not only the expulsion of al-Qaeda but also a halt to the flow of insurgents across the border into Afghanistan.
However, Mullen predicted slow progress, citing Pakistan's complex tribal allegiances and sensitivities over sovereignty that have limited US military involvement in the region.
"We're just not going to solve it overnight. It's going to take longer than most people realize," the Washington Post quoted Mullen as saying at a gathering of defense reporters here last evening.
Meanwhile, new Pakistan ambassador in Washington Husain Haqqani said that Pakistan won't appreciate any of US' designs of itself launching attacks on extremists from Pakistani soil in case the US suffers an attack that is traced back to Pakistan. "Pakistani preference remains to not have outside forces' action on the Pakistan side of the border," he said.
Haqqani, however, listed new conditions which his government will impose in any deal with insurgent groups. He said these extremists will now have to pledge not to launch attacks in either Pakistan or Afghanistan, and all foreign fighters in the tribal areas must be expelled. And, extremists must promise not to give safe haven to any group targeting any of Pakistan's allies, including the US. "That's something that American intelligence is very interested in. No safe haven or safe passage for any group that wants to plan attacks against any friend of Pakistan," he added.
Fighters will also have to promise to decommission large weapons and account for smaller arms, said the envoy.