Osama bin Laden
WASHINGTON – Osama bin Laden’s quest for a nuclear weapons arsenal now focuses on al-Qaida efforts to destabilizing Pakistan, plunging the nation into civil war, seizing power in conjunction with other radical jihadists and grabbing control of the world’s first Islamic bombs, according to a report in a West Point anti-terrorism journal.
Writing in the Combating Terrorism Center’s Sentinel, a new publication of the U.S. military academy, Bruce Riedel, a former senior U.S. official now with the Brookings Institution, says Pakistan represents the “real front line in the war against al-Qaida.”
The most frightening part of advances by Islamists confronting the government of Perves Musharraf is the determination of al-Qaida to obtain nuclear weapons.
Al-Qaida has been pursuing nuclear weapons for more than a decade, according to former CIA Director George Tenet.
“Today, [al-Qaida] has a secure operating base in the country, its leadership is issuing constant guidance to its global supporters, it is threatening NATO’s position in Afghanistan through its Taliban allies, and it is now a growing force in Pakistan itself,” writes Riedel. “The current political crisis in Pakistan is endangering the secular democratic forces in the country, polarizing the debate about the country’s future and strengthening al-Qaida’s Islamist partners.”
Riedel reports both bin Laden and his No. 2 commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri, could well be in any of Pakistan’s remote areas, out of control of government forces.
“From Baluchistan to Kashmir, much of western Pakistan is sympathetic to al-Qaida’s message and remains an open field where they can operate,” wrote Riedel. “Even in the urban areas, al-Qaida operatives have been able to attack key targets, including military posts, with increasingly deadly results.”
Al-Qaida, Riedel writes, “seeks to destroy the secular political leadership and civil society that offers an alternative to its extremist Salafist Islamic preaching. Al-Qaida’s goal in Pakistan is to polarize the country into warring factions, break the back of civil and secular society and ultimately see its allies in the Pakistani Islamist movement seize power.”