Washington: The US defence secretary has said that even though Washington was working with Pakistan to combat al Qaida in its border areas, American forces should be ready to act unilaterally to take out terror targets.
“The terrorist organization is training and reconstituting itself. It’s one area where we need to see if we can get the Pakistanis to take it on, then to work with the Pakistanis to improve their capabilities, ” said Robert Gates, US defence secretary in an interaction with the House Armed Services Committee.
“And then we need to be able to act unilaterally, if we have to, to make sure they don’t come back at us again,” he said. Gates said he believed that military operations carried out to ensure that al Qaida has no safe havens in Afghanistan were successful, but was concerned about what al Qaida is doing on the Pakistani side of the border.
Gates, however, said the US would not be looking to add significant numbers of US forces to run operations in Pakistan.
“In terms of the al Qaida safe haven, it’s not in Afghanistan where we would put additional troops if we wish to, but rather in Pakistan. And so, the question now is how do we work with the Pakistanis to make them more effective and what can we do together or, perhaps, independently? There’s no reason for us to worry about al Qaida operating on the Pakistani side of the border,” he said.
While admitting that there were safe havens for al Qaida and the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas, Gates defended the Musharraf government, saying the northern areas have historically never been under the firm control of Islamabad.
“The government in Pakistan has been one of our most steadfast allies in the war on terror since 11 September and has been immensely helpful to us. The conditions on the border clearly are a problem, particularly in North and South Waziristan. And as long as that remains unconstrained, I think we will have a continuing problem,” the defence secretary said.