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Future US security aid to Pak depends on concrete counter-terrorism steps: Panetta

June 9, 2011 - Washington

Any decisions on future US security aid to Islamabad will be based on Pakistan's response to the counter-terrorism steps proposed by the United States, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Leon Panetta has said.

Panetta said in a 79-page set of answers to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee in advance of his confirmation hearing scheduled for June 9 that an accelerated counterterrorism campaign in the Af-Pak border region is "vital" for the US to defeat Al-Qaeda there and prevent its return.

Any decisions on future US security assistance "will be informed" by Pakistan's response to the "concrete steps" the US has set for counterterrorism cooperation, said Panetta, who is nominated to succeed Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The US "train-advise-equip" programs with Pakistani military and paramilitary forces have been important in eliminating terrorist sanctuaries and disrupting the Al-Qaeda network, Bloomberg quoted Panetta, as saying.

"It is vital, however, that Pakistan live up to its end of the bargain, cooperating more fully in counterterrorism matters and ceasing to provide sanctuary to Afghan Taliban and other insurgent groups," he added.

The CIA chief noted that Pakistan continues to lack the necessary military and civilian capacities to "hold" and "build" in areas along the border region that have been cleared of Al-Qaeda forces.

Since 2009, Pakistan has undertaken counterinsurgency operations against extremist organizations in the northwest, including in Swat, South Waziristan, Mohmand and Bajaur, "with varying levels of success," he said.

Panetta also said that while Osama bin Laden's death in a May 2 US raid inside Pakistani territory is a "significant blow" to Al-Qaeda, the core group and its offshoots "remain a vary dangerous threat" in the region and to the US homeland.

"There is a risk that decentralized affiliates may pose an increased threat to the United States," he added.


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