Al Qaeda divided over Pakistan strategy
Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: Al Qaeda is divided over the wisdom of the network’s revenge tactics against the Lal Masjid operation, as one side favours more retaliation, while the other is concerned that further strikes will force the Pakistan Army to attack their safe havens in the tribal areas, reported the Sunday Telegraph.
According to the British weekly, radical Pakistani Islamists allied to Al Qaeda have revealed that Osama Bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, continues to advocate retaliatory attacks on Pakistani targets. However, it adds, some senior figures within Al Qaeda are “alarmed” that Al-Zawahiri’s mission to topple and kill General Pervez Musharraf could provoke a military backlash that could jeopardise their safe havens in the tribal areas along the Afghan border. A rival “Libyan faction”, led by Abu Yahya Al-Libi — an escapee from the US Bagram base near Kabul — apparently suspects that Al-Zawahiri is trying “to position himself as Bin Laden’s heir” with this “crusade”. The report adds that US intelligence operatives involved in the hunt for Bin Laden have confirmed that they have received reports of Al Qaeda rifts from senior sources within the Pakistani jihadist community.y.
It states that the US officials believe Al-Zawahiri is running the anti-Musharraf operations to foment a revolt that will result in an Islamic regime taking control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. They believe that the feud has developed because of the “power vacuum” left by the hiding Bin Laden, who, the report adds, may be seriously ill.
“There seems to be a debate within Al Qaeda about whether to accelerate the conflict in an effort to destabilise Pakistan or continue the attritional battle,” said John Arquilla, an intelligence analyst at the US Naval Postgraduate School. “Pakistan is the great strategic prize if they could install a friendly regime in possession of nuclear weapons. Pakistan is central to the war on terror in a way Iraq is not,” he added.
The role of Pakistan in the war on terror was particularly emphasised by the new US National Intelligence Estimate this month, which stated that Al Qaeda has regrouped in Pakistan’s tribal belt. It prompted fresh debate in Washington about whether the US should launch military strikes in Pakistan. According to the Sunday Telegraph, a significant faction inside the CIA wants the US to attack Al Qaeda within Pakistan now, with or without authorisation from General Musharraf. However, President George W Bush continues to support Musharraf, fearing such attacks would “undermine the Pakistani leader and could bring him down”.