The Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, known as the FATA, has become a safe haven for terrorism and are a source of instability for the country and its neighbours, a senior Bush administration official has said.
"...The FATA of Pakistan, has become a safe haven for Al Qaida terrorist and other extremist insurgents since the fall of the Taliban in December 2001," Frank Urbancic, the Acting Coordinator for the Office of Counter Terrorism, said.
"Despite Pakistan's efforts to eliminate threats and to establish effective governance in the FATA, these tribal areas continue to be terrorist safe havens and sources of instability for Pakistan and its neighbours" he said.
He said the US plans to help modernise and increase the capacity of the Frontier Corps so that they can become a more effective force.
"Pakistan army and Frontier Corps units have targeted and raided Al Qaida and other terrorist safe havens in the FATA. The failure of the tribal leaders in the FATA to fulfil their promises to the government under the terms of the North Waziristan agreements, which were signed in September, led to additional insurgent infiltration into Afghanistan," he said.
Urbancic, along with Russel Travers, Deputy Director of the National Counter Terrorism Center, was briefing reporters about the Country Terrorism Reports for 2006 at the State Department.
Asked why the problem cannot be contained along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, he said, "The problem that we have is the border, which neither (Pakistan and Afghanistan) has complete control over, on either side. We are working very strongly with those allies to help them establish control in those areas. That, I think, is the key," he said.
Urbancic did not answer a query on the efforts by Washington and Islamabad to nab the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
"I don't want to speculate on military operations, but I can say that we are working as closely as we can and we have very good cooperation, not only with President Pervez Musharraf, but with the government of Pakistan. As situations evolve, we will have to deal with those situations," he said.
The State Department Report on Terrorism for 2006 has argued that although Pakistan is a frontline partner in the War on it "remains a major source of Islamic extremism and a safe haven for some top terrorist leaders".
"Musharraf remained a forceful advocate for his vision of 'enlightened moderation', calling on Pakistanis to reject extremism and terrorist violence. The government's crackdown on banned organisations, hate material, and incitement by religious leaders continued unevenly," the report said.
"Madrasa registration, foreign student enrolment in madrassas, and financial disclosure requirements remained a source of friction between government and religious leaders,"
"Despite having approximately 80,000 troops in the FATA, including Army and Frontier Corps (FC) units, the Government of Pakistan has been unable to exert control over the area," the report said.
"Pak leaders took steps to prevent support to Kashmiri militancy and denounced acts of terrorism in India, including bombings in Varanasi in March and Mumbai in July. Meeting in September on the margins of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in
Havana, President Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to establish an Anti-Terrorism Mechanism to coordinate bilateral exchange of information on terrorist threats," the report noted.