Pakistan border areas epicentre of terrorism, says Mullen


WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s border areas along Afghanistan are the “epicentre of terrorism” in the world, but the Pakistan Army continues to be “India-centric”, a top US military official said on Saturday.
“Resident in that border area, mostly in Pakistan, although not entirely, I call it the epicentre of terrorism in the world,” Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in response to a question at the John F Kennedy Jr Forum at Harvard University in Boston.
“It isn’t just Al Qaeda or the Pakistani Taliban, it’s the Afghan Taliban, it’s LeT, which has migrated from an India-focused organisation in the east to the west, and in fact has broader aspirations than that right now. So it has become very synergistic in that part of the world, and that’s why we’re so focused on it,” Mullen said.
Noting that Pakistan had taken some strong steps in combating terrorism in the region in recent years, Mullen said the army continued to be “India-centric”.
“You’ve had a military that has had to convert from a conventional force to a counterinsurgency force. Yet there’s also the focus on your eastern border, certainly on India. That hasn’t gone away. Certainly one of the things I’ve learned, that’s not going away in the near future. I think that’s also something, from a policy standpoint, that has to be addressed as a part of all of this,” Mullen said.
He said the US constantly engages with the Pakistani government, not just the military. “Because part of this is certainly security, but Pakistan’s a country whose economy is struggling, some of that is recent, some of that is long term. And not unlike the answer over here, security’s certainly a critical part of it.
But in the long run, Pakistan has to have a healthier economy. They there has to be a government that responds in ways that makes a difference for the Pakistani people,” he added. Mullen said there were a number of factors that made the Afghan-Pakistan border region dangerous to the source of terrorism and instability, and explained why President Barack Obama had made such a steadfast commitment to “disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda” and its related networks.
“While we’ve made genuine progress against these networks, disrupting their operations and eliminating key leaders, they continue to actively plot new attacks against us and our allies, and they remain capable of striking the American homeland,” he said.