By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
June 12, 2008 - Although al-Qaida's operations in Iraq have been battered, the terrorist organization remains a threat to be reckoned with, the U.S. military's top officer said here today. Al-Qaida is "on the run in Iraq," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted at a Government Executive Magazine-hosted breakfast at the National Press Club. The terrorists, he said, are being pressured by U.S. and Iraqi security Forces, as well as concerned citizens who want al-Qaida out of their country.
However, al-Qaida remains a "lethal foe" of the United States, Mullen cautioned, noting the terrorist group hasn't given up its intent to attack America again. Al-Qaida, he noted, even is "growing in some parts of the world," such as the Horn of Africa region.
Al-Qaida's leadership "is still planning against us," Mullen pointed out. The terrorist group, he said, runs training camps in northwestern Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas, and al-Qaida operatives are known to enter Afghanistan from Pakistan to attack coalition and Afghan security forces.
U.S. and Pakistani troops aligned along the border have cooperated in efforts to stem the flow of insurgents into Afghanistan, Mullen said.
The United States and Pakistan, he said, both are investigating a recent border incident in which Pakistan claims some of its troops were killed by U.S. munitions during an anti-insurgent operation.
"The details of this [incident] are still not clear," Mullen said, noting the investigation is continuing.
Mullen cited the difficulty of maintaining security along what he described as a "porous" Afghanistan-Pakistan border. "It's a very challenging area," Mullen said of the border region, noting Pakistan has a serious extremist problem.
Pakistan is a sovereign nation with a new government that will have to grapple with the extremist issue, along with food, energy and other challenges, Mullen observed.
Pakistan also is an ally of the United States in the war against terrorism, Mullen pointed out, and a number of pacts between the two nations regarding border security and other issues are being worked.
The United States made prior agreements with Pakistan regarding border security issues that realized limited success, Mullen recalled.
"These agreements have occurred before, but they haven't been enforced," Mullen noted.