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'Pakistan is Al Qaeda's global base'

Pakistan has become the nerve centre of Al Qaeda's global operations to plan attacks around the world even while the Pakistani Taliban are planning a "surge" of their own, according to a top American military commander.

world Updated: May 09, 2009 09:36 IST

Pakistan has become the nerve centre of Al Qaeda's global operations to plan attacks around the world even while the Pakistani Taliban are planning a "surge" of their own, according to a top American military commander.

Senior leaders of Al Qaeda are using sanctuaries in Pakistan's lawless frontier regions to plan new terror attacks and funnel money, manpower and guidance to affiliates around the world, Gen. David Petraeus, US Central Command chief, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Pakistan has become the nerve centre of Al Qaeda's global operations, allowing the terror group to re-establish its organizational structure and build stronger ties to Al Qaeda offshoots in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, North Africa and parts of Europe, he said.

The comments underscored the growing US belief that Pakistan has displaced Afghanistan as Al Qaeda 's main stronghold, the Journal noted. "It is the headquarters of the Al Qaeda senior leadership," the general was quoted as saying.

In the interview, Petraeus also warned of difficult months ahead in Afghanistan, saying Taliban militants are moving weapons and forces into areas where the US is adding troops, planning a "surge" of their own to counter the US plan.

The US had intelligence showing that the Taliban were deploying new fighters to southern Afghanistan, appointing new local commanders, and prepositioning weapons and other supplies, he said.

"We have every expectation that the Taliban will fight to retain the sanctuaries and safe havens that they've been able to establish," he was quoted as saying.

US officials once believed that years of strikes had broken Al Qaeda 's leadership into smaller, less effective splinter groups.

But in the interview, Petraeus said US intelligence information suggested that Al Qaeda has re-emerged as a centrally directed organization capable of helping to plan attacks in other countries.

"There is a degree of hierarchy, there is a degree of interconnection, and there is certainly a flow of people, money, expertise, explosives and knowledge," he was quoted as saying.

Petraeus painted a picture of a globalised Al Qaeda that maintains extensive logistical and communications links to terror groups in Morocco, Somalia and other countries.