US concerned over Taliban extremists shifting base from Quetta to Karachi

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Washington, Feb.24 (ANI): The United States is concerned over the relocation of Taliban extremists from Quetta to Pakistan's port city of Karachi, which has made it more difficult for security agencies to nab them.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on the US-led Operation Mushtarak in southern Afghanistan, a senior US official said that a large number of Taliban leaders and other extremist commanders are shifting their base to Karachi in order to escape the continuous drone attacks in the tribal regions.

"Elements of the Afghan Taliban high command are beginning to relocate from Quetta to Karachi, due in large part to drone attacks," said Lieutenant General John Paxton, director for operations at the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"And obviously this makes it more difficult to locate and apprehend the senior Taliban leadership, because Karachi is a major metropolitan city with over 3 million Pashtuns," Paxton told the Senate.

Paxton, however, did not explain why drone attacks would force militants in Quetta to leave because so far there have been no such missile hits in Balochistan.

US Under-Secretary for Defence Policy Michele Flournoy refused to speak on the issue, saying she would not like to discuss the impact of this relocation on America's efforts to defeat the Taliban in an 'open session.'

"It's maybe more for some of our intelligence-agency brethren. But we can certainly talk about it more in a closed session," The Dawn quoted Flourney, as saying.

Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain told the committee that the Taliban had recruited thousands of new volunteers, and asked Flourney whether she had any idea about the massive recruitment by the extremists.

"Secretary Flournoy, there are press reports that the Taliban have been able to build up their strength by about 35 per cent over the past two years in the Afghan-Pakistan border up by 7,000 more than in 2008 to about 27,000.Are those reports accurate, and what do you attribute it to if they are?" McCain asked.

"Sir, I'd rather answer that in closed session if we could," Flournoy replied.

However, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates hailed the recent arrest of Taliban's second-in command Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was nabbed from Karachi earlier this month.

Baradar's capture has been followed by a series of major detentions within the Taliban's ranks.

A former governor in the Taliban regime in Afghanistan's Nangahar Province, Maulvi Kabir was recently nabbed in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

In addition to Kabir, Mullah Salam of Afghanistan's Kunduz province and Mullah Mohammad, who reportedly controlled the Baghlan province, were both captured after Baradar. (ANI)

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