Al-Qaeda has regained some of its pre-Sept. 11 strength based on support from within Pakistan, leading to a 16 per cent jump in the number of attacks in Afghanistan, a U.S. government report said Wednesday.
“Al-Qaeda and associated networks remained the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners in 2007,” says the U.S. State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism.
“It has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities through the exploitation of Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas, replacement of captured or killed operational lieutenants, and the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri,” said the report.
Al-Zawahiri is considered to be al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man and the group’s main “strategic and operational planner.”
State Department counterterrorism co-ordinator Dell Dailey stressed to reporters Wednesday in Washington the group remains weaker overall than it was on Sept. 11.
The report suggests the main reason for the increase in al-Qaeda’s strength in the region was a ceasefire agreement the Pakistani government reached with tribal leaders last year. The agreement has since expired, but Pakistan’s government is negotiating a new truce.
“Instability along the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier appeared to have provided al-Qaeda leadership greater mobility and ability to conduct training and operational planning, particularly that targeting Western Europe and the United States,” said the report.
The report says al-Qaeda’s activity in the Afghan-Pakistan border zone is funded by “criminal networks and narcotics cultivation” in Afghanistan’s south and east.
More than 2,500 Canadian soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province as part of a NATO-led mission. Since the mission started in 2002, 82 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed. The report notes that is “the highest proportion of casualties to troops deployed for any NATO member.”