''Al-Qaeda in Af-Pak, other places continues to pose threat''
From Lalit K Jha
Washington, Jan 29 (PTI) The units of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and parts of North Africa and the Middle East pose a serious threat and the US would continue to vigorously go after them, the Pentagon said today.
"I think AQ (al-Qaeda) in Afghanistan and Pakistan, AQ in Yemen, AQ in various parts of Africa, they all pose a very serious threat to the United States. We view all of these groups as a priority in terms of going after them. So I wouldn''t rank order the various nodes of AQ," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters.
Little said various nodes of al-Qaeda have come under very strong pressure in recent years in Pakistan and in Yemen and in Somalia.
"We are seeing pressure brought to bear against AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and other groups in North Africa. We intend with our allies and in the context of international effort, to sustain that pressure," Little said in response to a question.
Little, however, did not comment on the level of co-ordination among the various units of al-Qaeda spread across the region.
"I wouldn''t comment on that kind of thing. We have seen this kind of coordination in the past. I''m not going to get into specifics. But that has been a concern of ours. And that''s another reason why we need to keep up the pressure," he said.
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has been very clear for a long time since he was CIA director, that the US has to go after al-Qaeda wherever they are, to include in South Asia, to include in other parts of Africa and to include North Africa, places like Yemen, as well, Little said.
"We are taking the fight in various ways to al-Qaeda, and we''ve been doing very effectively for a number of years now," he said.
"AQIM poses a threat in the region, and I can''t rule out the possibility that AQIM poses a threat to US interests. This is a group that has shown its ability to demonstrate brutality and to conduct attacks, and it''s very important that we work with our partners in the region and our allies to thwart them.
And that''s why we''re applauding the French effort (in Mali)," Little said.
At the same time, he said, he is not aware of any specific or credible information at this time that points to an AQIM threat against the American homeland.
"But again, I''m not ruling it out. We take al-Qaeda wherever they are very seriously, and we''re not going to rest on our laurels until we find that kind of specific and credible information," Little said.
"Al-Qaeda remains in South Asia, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan. They''re diminished, but they''re not gone. They''re in places like Yemen. We''re concerned about their presence in other parts of the Middle East, and they''re on the continent of Africa," he said.