| An image taken from a surveillance video in Washington’s Dulles International Airport shows two hijackers passing through a security checkpoint on September 11, 2001. (Reuters)
Islamabad/Kabul, July 23 (Agencies): Despite a massive manhunt and billions of dollars spent on manpower and equipment, the US war on al Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan is still a long way from achieving its objectives, security experts warned.
The 9/11 commission’s report, released yesterday, described Afghanistan as the incubator for al Qaida and for the September 11, 2001, attacks, noting that the country must not become a sanctuary again for international crime and terrorism.
Security and political analysts said Washington had been unable to root out the terror threat from the region and bring real stability to Afghanistan, where Taliban fighters and their Islamic militant allies carry out deadly attacks almost daily.
“The war on terrorism is being lost by the western alliance. Al Qaida and their local allies today are much stronger in Pakistan,” author and Afghan expert Ahmed Rashid said.
He added that the Taliban were stronger in Afghanistan than at any time since their ouster by US-led forces in late 2001. “The Taliban are determined to disrupt the elections. Iraq has diverted the western military intelligence resources that should have sustained a long-term and consistent counter-terrorism strategy in this region,” he said.
The commission report noted there was continuing controversy about whether military operations in Iraq had any effect on the scale of US commitment to the future of Afghanistan.
“We welcome the emphasis of the 9/11 report on the fact that long-term and sustained support is essential in the fight against terrorism,” said Afghan presidential spokesman Jawed Ludin.
“The work we have started in Afghanistan is not only the war against terrorism, but also a political and reconstruction process,” he said in Kabul.
A Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman said Islamabad also welcomed the recommendation of the commission that Washington should give more assistance to Pakistan, and for praising President Pervez Musharraf's efforts to curb Islamic militancy.
“But the excerpts which have come to fore, these don’t make clear whether the commission has correctly diagnosed the causes for terrorism,” foreign ministry spokesman Masood Khan said.
Poverty, religious education, widespread corruption and an ineffective government make Pakistan and its 150 million people a prime target for Islamist recruitment.
“It is hard to overstate the importance of Pakistan in the struggle against Islamist terrorism,” the report said.
Pak helped Osama
The commission also said in the report that Pakistan held the key to Osama bin Laden’s ability to use Afghanistan as a base to revive his plans to attack US after he could no longer stay in Sudan, the panel said.
It is unlikely that bin Laden could have returned to Afghanistan had Pakistan disapproved, said the report made public yesterday. “The Pakistani military intelligence service probably had advance knowledge of his coming, and its officers may have facilitated his travel.
“During his entire time in Sudan, he had maintained guesthouses and training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These were part of a larger network used by diverse organisations for recruiting and training fighters for Islamic insurgencies in such places as Tajikistan, Kashmir and Chechnya,” it said.