Al Qaeda's "safe haven" in northwestern Pakistan is largely inaccessible to outside forces and unlikely to be eliminated soon by the US or Pakistani military, top intelligence officials said.
At a hearing in the US House of Representatives, Pentagon intelligence chief James Clapper said the United States was not content to sit still while the network blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington regenerated its strength in North Waziristan.
"I think our objective will be to neutralize, not eliminate, but certainly make this safe haven — as we have the others — less safe and less appealing for AQ," Clapper told a joint session of the House armed services and intelligence committees.
But Clapper, undersecretary of defence for intelligence, presented the task of eliminating Al Qaeda's influence in the region as a long-term project that would hinge on US economic aid to the local populace and contributions of military assistance including sophisticated surveillance equipment to the Pakistani military.
"This is going to be a long-haul process," he said. "I don't think we'll have any demonstrable change within (a) three-year time frame."
Added Clapper, "It's not just ... putting bombs on targets."
He and other administration officials spoke to lawmakers about Al Qaeda's emergence in Pakistan after White House homeland security adviser Frances Townsend refused to rule out US military action against Al Qaeda.
At a separate hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns reiterated the view that the United States would take unilateral action against Al Qaeda in Pakistan under certain circumstances.
But he stressed that Washington's strong preference was to work with the Pakistani government.
Burns also defended Bush's request for $750 million over five years in new aid to help bring jobs and other development to the lawless region. He said the administration would ask Congress to allow duty-free imports from the border region to aid economic development.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Temmuz 2007, 13:25