Note: This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
(by Toby Harnden, Telegraph.co.uk) WASHINGTON – Al-Qaeda no longer has a significant presence in Afghanistan, according to General David Petraeus, who commands US forces in the region.
“They do come in and out of Afghanistan,” Gen. Petraeus told CNN. “But al Qaeda – precise al Qaeda, if you will – is not based per se in Afghanistan. Although its elements and certainly its affiliates… certainly do have enclaves and sanctuaries in certain parts of Eastern Afghanistan.”
His comments could be an attempt to lay the groundwork for an eventual declaration of American success in the Afghan war, which began more than seven years ago. President Barack Obama recently outlined a narrower war aim in Afghanistan – “to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda” and prevent its return.
But Gen. Petraeus, who also commands US forces in the Middle East, warned that al-Qaeda had taken root in neighbouring Pakistan and now posed an “existential threat” to the nuclear-armed country.
The head of US Central Command pointed to Pakistan’s offensive against the Taliban in the Swat valley as a sign its political leaders, armed forces and people were united against Islamists.
“The actions of the Pakistani Taliban … seem to have galvanised all of Pakistan,” he told Fox News. “There is a degree of unanimity that there must be swift and effective action taken against the Taliban.”
Pakistan’s military said on Sunday that they had killed up to 200 Taliban fighters in 24 hours during their push to expel them from the Swat valley in the country’s northwest. There has been alarm in Washington at the presence of Taliban forces within 60 miles of the Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.
Gen. Petraeus said that he believed Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were still in charge of al-Qaeda. But Gen. James Jones, Mr. Obama’s National Security Adviser, said it was unclear if Bin Laden was alive.
“The truth is, I don’t think anybody knows.”
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1. a) Who is Gen. David Petraeus?
b) What does the reporter imply is General Petraeus’ purpose for saying that al Qaeda is not based in Afghanistan?
c) Do you think that Gen. Petraeus would say this about al Qaeda for this reason? Explain your answer.
2. What goal for the Afghan war did President Obama recently outline?
3. What warning did Gen. Petraeus make about al Qaeda?
4. How does Gen. Petraeus view the Pakistani government’s response to the Taliban threat?
5. a) How do Gen. Petraeus and President Obama’s National Security Advisor differ on their view of Osama bin Laden?
b) With whom do you agree? Why?
NOTE ON AL QAEDA: Al-Qaeda is an international terrorist network led by Osama bin Laden. It seeks to rid Muslim countries of what it sees as the profane influence of the West and replace their governments with fundamentalist Islamic regimes. After al-Qaeda’s September 11, 2001, attacks on America, the United States launched a war in Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda’s bases there and overthrow the Taliban, the country’s Muslim fundamentalist rulers who harbored bin Laden and his followers. “Al-Qaeda” is Arabic for “The Base.”
(read more about al Qaeda at cfr.org/publication/9126.)
Read about CentCom (U.S. Central Command) and specifically the work in Afghanistan at centcom.mil.
Go to worldatlas.com for maps of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
For background information on Afghanistan and Pakistan, go to the CIA World FactBook website here.