More terror groups eye Pak nuke weapons: Petraeus

More terror groups eye Pak nuke weapons: Petraeus

More terror groups eye Pak nuke weapons: Petraeus

Hinting that groups other than al- Qaeda and Taliban might be seeking to arm themselves with nuclear weapons, General David Petraeus, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan has suggested that US should stay engaged in the area in which "we have such vital interests".

Though the US commander did not name the groups, American security officials have said that Punjab based groups like LeT, JeM and Sipah-i-Sabha were now working closely with al-Qaeda and Taliban in the tribal areas close to the Af-Pak border.

The General also raised the possibility of operating joint military bases with local forces, after US troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.

Previously US had said that it was only groups like al- Qaeda and Taliban that were out to acquire small sized nuclear weapons, but now General David Petraeus, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan said "there are many groups operating on Pak-Afghan border eyeing weapons of mass destructions".

"There are certainly other elements in Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban and several other varieties of elements who generally have symbiotic relationships, the most extreme of which might, indeed, value access to nuclear weapons or other weapons that could cause enormous loss of life," Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

While the focus of the hearing was the war in Afghanistan, the central theme of the US commanders deposition was on threat emanating from ungoverned areas of Pakistan, which served as havens for terror groups of all hues.

While assuring the lawmakers that nuclear weapons of Pakistan were for the moment safe and secure, the General said a constant vigil needed to be maintained.

"I mean, they killed several thousands in one destructive act. And some have shown a willingness to carry out similar destructive acts if they had the means at their survival," he said.

The General said it was very important for US to stay engaged in the region and for this he mooted the idea of setting up joint military bases with local forces.

Citing his tenure in Iraq, Petraeus said that US should have enabler troops that train, advise and support local forces in countries where the US has important security interests.

He and Michele Flournoy, the Under Secretary of Defence stressed at the meeting that any continued military relationship with Afghanistan would require negotiations with the government there.

Senators both Republicans and Democrats pressed to find out what could be done to assist and even compel Pakistan to do more to rout insurgents from those areas.

"The Pakistanis are the first to note that more needs to be done", Petraeus said. The General said while the bulk of al-Qaeda was holed up underground in the tribal area, the group continued to maintain small presence inside Afghanistan.

Petraeus said al-Qaeda had about 100 operatives or fighters inside Afghanistan. On efforts to woo Taliban foot soldiers, the US commander said attempts were showing progress and about 700 former Taliban fighters had officially reintegrated with the Afghan authority and another 2000 were now in early stages of reintegration process.