US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday she believes al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is in Pakistan and she vowed to keep up pressure on miltant groups in the country.
“We want to disable al-Qaeda and we have made a lot of progress in doing that,” Clinton told an audience in India, a week after the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by US special forces.
“There are several significant leaders still on the run. Zawahiri, who inherited the leadership from Bin Laden is somewhere, we believe, in Pakistan,” she added.
Zawahiri, an Egyptian cleric, was second-in-command under bin Laden and was regarded by US intelligence agencies as chief ideologue for the militant group.
Clinton also said the US would keep up pressure for the arrest of the founder of Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) who is wanted over the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The United States last month offered a $10 million reward for information leading to the conviction of Hafiz Saeed, who lives openly in Pakistan and is considered a mastermind of the assault in India that killed 166 people.
Three of the top five most-wanted militants by the United States are believed to be in Pakistan, including the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Omar.
And ensuring Zawahiri’s safe haven status in Pakistan: Obama’s deal with Karzai bans raids on al-Qaida bases in Pakistan
President Barack Obama has promised not to attack Pakistan-based al-Qaida leaders or fighters from bases inside Afghanistan.
The surprising commitment effectively bars Obama and his successors from launching another nighttime helicopter raid like the one that that killed Osama bin Laden. That raid has proven to be Obama’s primary foreign-policy success because it killed bin Laden, scooped up much intelligence data and shocked Pakistan.
Obama’s commitment will also end the use of secretive drone-attacks from Afghanistan. Those attacks have killed hundreds of al-Qaida leaders since the mid-2000s. They’ve also been very popular with U.S voters, and usually have had tacit Pakistan approval.
The unadvertised provision is buried in the deal that Afghan president Hamid Karzai and Obama signed with much campaign-style fanfare May 1 in Kabul. It could provide a legal shield for Pakistani-based al-Qaida’s leaders, front-line fighters, terrorism-planners, allied terror-leaders, funders, terror bases and terror training-grounds.
“The United States further pledges not to use Afghan territory or facilities as a launching point for attacks against other countries,” says the provision, found in paragraph 6b of the eight-page deal.
The deal was signed on the one-year anniversary of the bin Laden raid.
Media reports say that the U.S. agencies have also launched multiple secret short-range raids and strikes against terror bases on the Pakistani side of the Pakistan-Afghan border. Obama’s new deal would also presumably stop those short-range raids into Pakistan.
Also, the deal does not bar the United States from attacking jihadi targets in Pakistan with missiles launched from aircraft, ships or submarines in the Indian Ocean. However, those raids could be considered a more blatant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty than secretive short-range raids launched from U.S. bases in the Afghan mountains.
The May 1 deal is titled “Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.” Its main provision says U.S combat forces will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
That last sentence would be the only good news here except they will likely just rename the “combat forces” or relocate them nearby.