Pakistan "epicentre of terrorism" in the world, re-iterates Admiral Mullen

Washington, Jan 13(ANI): Pakistan is the "epicenter of terrorism in the world" right now, and the coalition forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan cannot win the war without eliminating the 'safe terrorist havens' in Pakistan, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen has said.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again it [Pakistan] is the epicenter of terrorism in the world right now, and it deserves the attention of everybody to do as much as we can to eliminate that threat. But we cannot succeed in Afghanistan without shutting down those safe havens," Mullen said during a briefing at the Foreign Press Center.

"One of the things that I spoke to in my remarks was support for this reconciliation process, and that process includes everything, not just the Afghan Taliban, in terms of getting to a point where Afghanistan is peaceful and stable and can take control of its own life and move forward in every respect," he added.

Mullen made these comments in response to a question in which he was asked about 'fertile ground' for terrorists with reference to Pakistan, and how "important is progress there, and can you assess how progress is being made there for progress in Afghanistan?"

"Progress in Pakistan is critical in terms of the region... I think progress there is critical as well. Obviously the recent assassination, the political challenges that we've seen with MQM [Muttahida Qaumi Movement political party] leaving and returning to the coalition to ensure that that government doesn't fall, I think that political aspect is something I keep an eye on all the time," he said.

"It is absolutely critical that the safe havens in Pakistan get shut down. We cannot succeed in Afghanistan without that. I've had many meetings with General Kayani on this subject and he has evolved his military against this threat. This threat is evolving as well, because it's not just Haqqani Network anymore, or al-Qaida, or TTT [Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or Pakistani Taliban], the Afghan Taliban, or LET [Lashkar-e-Taiba], it's all of them working together in ways that two years ago they absolutely did not," he added.

When asked that given his own comment that the US and coalition forces "cannot win the war in Afghanistan without the full cooperation of Pakistan", whether Pakistan was doing enough or not, and what he had told the nation and what it was doing in order to shut down the safe havens there, Admiral Mullen replied: I don't go into specifics of discussions that I've had, private conversations that I've had."

"But one of the facts over the course of the last year is Pakistan is emerging from these devastating floods and their military, their army in particular, was diverted, and rightfully so, to take care of their own people. They're emerging from that... So the Pakistani military leadership has had to both guide that and readjust. I'm confident that the military knows what it has to do and I've been through this with General Kayani, and intends to do this," he added.

Admiral Mullen noted that there were "some challenges that are there to ensure that where they have been before -- in Swat, Bajaur, [Kot] Moman -- that there's no reemergence of the insurgents there as well. So the challenges are enormous."

"We are in full support of those and strategically the safe havens have got to go. When I talk about the region, it isn't just Afghanistan and Pakistan. We had a question earlier about Iran. I talk about this with my Russian counterpart. The neighbors in the area to include India. I think we all have responsibility and we all want to see this resolved as rapidly as possible. That is a call for action for everybody that's involved in this," he added.

The top US military official has time and again warned that Pakistan's tribal region bordering Afghanistan has become the epicentre of terrorism in the world.

"Taliban have a growing influence in most of Afghanistan"s provinces, and the border area between that country and Pakistan remains the epicenter of global terrorism," Mullen said in his testimonial before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2010.

In October 2010, he again warned that the Afghan-Pak border area remained the 'epicentre of terrorism,' and added that many of the militant outfits based in that region were now seeking global reach.

"The reason we're focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan is that living in that border area are the terrorists from various organisations and it has become the epicentre of terrorism in the world," Mullen was quoted, as saying in a speech at the Texas A and M University.

"Several of those organisations, in addition to Al-Qaeda, now have global aspirations and are moving to a point of having global operational capacity. And they threaten us very specifically- the United States, Western interests, our European friends," he added.

In November the same year, in response to a question addressed to him at the John F Kennedy Jr. Forum at Harvard University in Boston, Mullen said: "Resident in that border area, mostly in Pakistan, although not entirely, I call it the epicentre of terrorism in the world."

"It isn't just al-Qaeda or the Pakistan Taliban, it's the Afghan Taliban, it's LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba), which has migrated from an India-focused organisation in the east to the West, and in fact has broader aspirations than that right now. So it has become very synergistic in that part of the world, and that's why we're so focused on it," he added. (ANI)

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