US "comfortable" with new Pak govt's "tolerance" over unilateral strikes against Qaeda

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Washington, May 31 : US intelligence agency CIA chief Michael V Hayden has said that they were "comfortable" with the new administration in Islamabad in as far as being as tolerant in respect of unilateral US strikes against Al Qaeda from Pakistan's soil, as was the case during Musharraf's reign.

Hayden's comment would suggest that the US' arrangements agreed upon with the earlier government in Islamabad remain in place, said a report in the Daily Times.

The report said that the Bush administration has been watching political developments in Pakistan with apprehension, worried that the country's newly elected leadership will not be as tolerant of occasional unilateral US strikes against Al Qaeda as was the government of President Pervez Musharraf, a close ally in the US fight against terrorism.

According to the report, Hayden declined to discuss what agreements, if any, have been brokered with Pakistan's new leaders, but said, "we're comfortable with the authorities we have."

Cautioning that Al Qaeda remained a serious threat, Hayden stressed that Osama Bin Laden was losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Islamic world and had largely forfeited his ability to exploit the Iraq war to recruit adherents, a situation that existed in reverse only two years ago.

The CIA chief further said, "On balance, we are doing pretty well. Near strategic defeat of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for Al Qaeda globally - and here I'm going to use the word 'ideologically' - as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on their form of Islam. The ability to kill and capture key members of Al Qaeda continues, and keeps them off balance - even in their best safe haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border."

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