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'Tension between Pak civilian, military leadership to continue'

A top Obama administration official has told lawmakers that there is tension between Pakistan's civilian and military leadership, which is going to continue in the coming months.

world Updated: Feb 17, 2011 07:39 IST

A top Obama administration official has told lawmakers that there is tension between Pakistan's civilian and military leadership, which is going to continue in the coming months.

"Tension between Pakistan's military and civilian leadership will continue to ebb and flow in the months ahead as both sides attempt to safeguard personal priorities, including retaining positions of power, and cultivating legacies, with a shared desire to avoid direct military intervention in domestic politics," said James R Clapper, Director of National Intelligence.

In his prepared testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Clapper said Pakistan-based militant groups and al-Qaeda are coordinating their attacks inside Pakistan despite their historical differences regarding ethnicity, sectarian issues, and strategic priorities.

"This offensive orientation has included greater efforts at making al-Qaeda propaganda and videos available on Pakistan-focused, Urdu-language sites. We judge Pakistani extremists and al-Qaeda will try to conduct additional costly terrorist attacks against the Pakistan government and US and other foreign interests throughout the country," he said.

"These extremists likely view high-impact attacks as a way of draining US and Pakistani government resources, retaliating against US CT actions, deterring Pakistani CT and counterinsurgency (COIN) efforts, and causing locals to question the value of these efforts and Islamabad's ability to maintain security throughout the country," he said.

However, according to a 2010 Pew Global Attitudes Project poll, an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis (91%) describe terrorism as a very big problem in their country, and both the Taliban and al-Qaeda draw little public support (less than 20 per cent favorability), he noted.

Clapper said Islamabad has demonstrated determination and persistence in combating militants it perceives dangerous to Pakistan's interests, particularly those involved in attacks in the settled areas, including FATA-based Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, al-Qaeda, and other associated operatives in the settled areas.

"Islamabad's ability to counter extremists in the safe havens is improving although the extremist threat has in no sense been contained. Major Pakistani military operations have since taken place in six of the seven FATA areas, with North Waziristan being the exception, but militants have proven adept at evading impending Pakistan military operations and in re-infiltrating previously cleared areas," he said.

The summer 2010 floods adversely impacted combat operations against extremist organisations, due to interruptions of supply lines and poor weather conditions that affected ground and air operations, he said.

"We assess that the Pakistan army will continue to attempt to stabilise cleared areas of the FATA and Khyber Pakhtunwa and support efforts to build up local tribal "auxiliary" police units and expand the Frontier Scouts to attempt to provide a lasting security regime," he said.

"Pakistan's high acquittal rate for individuals accused of terrorism is a cause for concern; empowerment of the country's law enforcement and judicial authorities and better coordination among its intelligence services will be key," Clapper said.

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