A senior Al-Qaeda operative said the terrorist organization would use Pakistan's nuclear weapons to strike the United States if it had the chance to do so, Reuters reported today (see GSN, June 10).
"God willing, the nuclear weapons will not fall into the hands of the Americans and the mujahideen would take them and use them against the Americans," Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, head of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, told al-Jazeera when asked about reported U.S. plans to secure Pakistan's nuclear weapons from extremists.
"We expect that the Pakistani army would be defeated" by Taliban militants in Pakistan's Swat Valley, "and that would be its end everywhere, God willing," he said.
Al-Qaeda intends to move forward with "with large-scale operations against the enemy" al-Yazid said, referring to the United States.
"We have demanded and we demand that all branches of al-Qaeda carry out such operations," he said in reference to strikes on U.S. troops Afghanistan and Iraq.
Al-Qaeda would accept a decade-long suspension of operations against the United States if the U.S. military pulls out of Muslim nations and Washington ends its support for Israel and friendly Muslim countries, al-Yazid said.
Asked about the location of al-Qaeda's leadership, he said: "Praise God, sheikh Osama (bin Laden) and sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri are safe from the reach of the enemies, but we would not say where they are; moreover, we do not know where they are, but we're in continuous contact with them" (Inal Ersan, Reuters I, June 22).
U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday vouched for the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, the Press Trust of India reported.
"I have confidence that the Pakistani government has safeguarded its nuclear arsenal. It is Pakistan's nuclear arsenal," Obama told Pakistan's Dawn television.
Asked about the possibility of extremists seizing Pakistani nuclear weapons, he said: "I won't engage in hypotheticals like that."
"What I do have concerns about is making sure that the Taliban and other extremist organizations aren't taking root in South Asia, in Afghanistan, in the Middle East," he said (Lalit Jha, Press Trust of India/Yahoo!News, June 20).
A possible Pakistani army offensive in the nation's Federally Administered Tribal Areas and ongoing U.S. aerial attacks in the region have prompted some analysts to wonder whether al-Qaeda's commanders might attempt to leave their long-presumed hideout, Reuters reported (see GSN June 12).
“It's conceivable al-Qaeda could move. But it would be hard to find safe haven in another state,” said David Claridge, head of Janusian Security Risk Management.
Leaving the rugged and largely lawless region might expose bin Laden and other terrorist leaders to satellite scrutiny and to locals who could report their presence.
“The moment that al-Qaeda has to leave the FATA, that is the end of al-Qaeda as an organization,” said Thomas Hegghammer, a research fellow at Harvard University.
Yemen was "a pretty good safe haven" for lesser al-Qaeda operatives, but indications that the organization's commanders were in the area could prompt a Yemeni-U.S. crackdown, Hegghammer said.
Experts floated Somalia as another potential destination for al-Qaeda leaders (William Maclean, Reuters II/Globe and Mail, June 19).