US should make Pakistan accountable: scholar

Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation also batted for the continuation of the drone campaign in the Af-Pak border areas, pointing out that the successful killing of the al Qaeda number two Atiyah Abd al-Rahman demonstrates the importance of continuing the missile strikes.

"US officials should reject Pakistani assertions that they are incapable of shutting down groups linked to al-Qaeda, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, and the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, whose leader was in contact with bin Laden's courier before the May 2 raid," Curtis said.

"Indeed, the US should never settle for Pakistani excuses for avoiding a full-throttle approach against these terrorist groups and instead demand that Pakistan be accountable for the activities of all terrorist groups on its soil," she said.

However, she said that despite the severe differences that persist with Islamabad, it is in the interest of the US to remain engaged with Pakistani leaders and demonstrate US interest in the development of a prosperous and moderate Pakistan free of the terrorist scourge.

"Pakistani leaders are slowly waking to the costs of tolerating terrorism on their soil, and the US should be in a position to support the state against the terrorists' designs," said the eminent American scholar.

While noting that Pakistani officials and media have severely criticised the drone missile strikes as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty, Curtis said the US is highly unlikely to relent in its drone campaign since the tactic has proven to be the most effective tool to destroy al-Qaeda's leadership and disrupt its ability to plot and train for attacks across the globe.

The elimination of al-Rahman—a central operational planner for the organisation is another sign that al-Qaeda is weakening, she said.

Curtis pointed out that Al-Rahman had directed American terrorist Bryant Neal Vinas, who helped al-Qaeda with a plot to bomb the New York City subway in 2009, and had also directed terrorist plots in Europe while playing a role in the suicide bombing that killed seven CIA operatives in Afghanistan in December 2009.

Files captured at bin Laden's Abbottabad compound apparently revealed that bin Laden and al-Rahman had discussed trying to broker a deal with Pakistani authorities for al Qaeda to receive protection in Pakistan in exchange for its agreement to refrain from mounting attacks inside Pakistan, she said.

"While there are no indications that such a plan was ever mooted with Pakistani officials, the revelation shows al-Qaeda operatives perceive vulnerabilities among Pakistani leadership that they can exploit to their advantage," she said.

However, she pointed out that the US will not be able to finish the job of defeating the organisation altogether without full Pakistani cooperation.

Noting that Pakistani officials have long tolerated terrorist groups that are linked to al-Qaeda, which in turn facilitate the organisation's ability to use Pakistan as a launch pad for its international terrorist campaign, Curtis said Pakistani officials have sought to argue that they can "better control" or "keep tabs on" the terrorist groups if their intelligence agencies retain links to them.

"However, if such groups were able to protect the world's most wanted terrorist without the Pakistan military's knowledge, who is keeping tabs on whom?" she said.

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