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Al Qaeda is under fantastic pressure, says Holbrooke

By Lalit K Jha
March 15, 2010 10:00 IST
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Having lost nearly a dozen of its top 20 leaders, the Al Qaeda is under fantastic pressure, Special United States Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke has said. "They are under fantastic pressure. You know, recently their external operations chief was eliminated. They have lost about 10 to 12 of their top 20 people in the last year or so," Holbrooke told CNN in an interview.

"It looks like they are less an organisation that plans operations now than an organisation that summons people to aspirational Jihad," Holbrooke said.

"Their excessive brutality, the backlash against things, like the bombing of the wedding in Jordan, the beheading of people, the videotape in Swat of the flogging of the young girl, has created a revulsion against them. And although there are still these terrible incidents like the Jordanian doctor who blew himself and eight Central Intelligence People up in eastern Afghanistan and other similar events, that maybe they're losing their ideological appeal because it's such a nonsensical thing they're doing," Holbrooke said.

"It's pure nihilism. They stand for absolutely nothing except destruction, and they destroy people's lives in a random and insane way," he said.

Holbrooke pointed out that in the last 13 months, since the Barack Obama administration took over, there has been a significant improvement across the board in the relationship with the government of Pakistan.

"No government on earth has received more high-level attention," he noted. "National Security Adviser (General James) Jones has been there twice. Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton went on a very successful trip at the end of October. I've been there eight times. (Defense) Secretary (Robert) Gates has been there several times, including this week, I believe, and many other high-level visitors. Federal Bureau of Investigation director (Mike) Mueller was there the other day and hosted a joint meeting of the two ministers of interior," he said.

"All of this, plus the recognition that the distinction between Afghan Taliban and Pakistan Taliban, if it ever existed, is eroded, has led the Pakistanis to take a very much more forward leaning position. Plus, above all, the backlash from the excesses of the Taliban in Swat, in South Waziristan, and their attacks in places like Lahore or Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Karachi, have all contributed to an evolution," he said.

"I spent a lot of time talking to (Pakistani Army Chief) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. In the last month, I have seen him twice for long, private meetings, which were extremely productive. I have talked to the civilian leadership, as have my colleagues, especially General Jones and Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton. We feel, clearly, that we're working more closely together with them, and I think that's a very big step forward," Holbrooke said.

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