Pakistan is the new epicentre of terror: US expert

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : Pakistan has emerged as the new epicentre of terror with Osama bin Laden making it his key arena, according to Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who helped craft President Barack Obama’s Af-Pak policy.

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The recent attack on the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar “is only the latest in the escalating war for the future of Pakistan,” wrote Riedel, currently senior fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

“The Pakistani Taliban and its Al Qaeda ally believe they can destabilize the world’s second-largest Muslim state-with the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal – and perhaps even take it over and turn it into a jihadist emirate,” he wrote in a piece first published in The Daily Beast,a news website.

The elusive Al Qaeda leader bin Laden had made this clear in the statement he issued on the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to the Middle East, Riedel said noting that there is no mention in the tape of the president’s stops in Riyadh or Cairo.

Contrary to the impression left by the press, bin Laden’s 24-minute-long tape was not a message about the president’s visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, he said. “Instead, the bin Laden tape is all about Pakistan. For bin Laden, this is the key arena today.”

Noting that Obama took on the Al Qaeda challenge in Cairo in a speech that attacked the terrorists’ narrative and ideology brilliantly, Riedel said:

“The jihadists will fight back with both words and deeds. Pakistan will be the epicentre of that war.”

Asking the US to give Pakistanis the support they need, he said. “At long last, some in Pakistan are recognising that the existential threat to their country’s freedoms comes from the jihadist Frankenstein created over the last three decades by their own intelligence services.”

According to Riedel, in the tape, bin Laden attacks President Asif Ali Zardari and the Pakistani army for the army’s current campaign in the Swat Valley to rid it of Taliban extremists.

“Zardari is portrayed by bin Laden as the agent of an American-Jewish-Indian plot to suppress the mujahedeen in Pakistan and weaken the Pakistani state, strengthen India, and ultimately steal Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal,” he said.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])