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Pak-Afghan border is Al Qaeda's safe haven, warns CIA chief
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March 31, 2008 09:30 IST

Stating that the Al Qaeda [Images] was able to establish an unprecedented safe haven along the Pakistan-Afghan border in the past 18 months, the Central Intelligence Agency chief has warned that the situation there presented a clear danger to the two nations, as also to the United States.

Speaking to TV show Meet The Press, General Micheal Hayden termed the 2006 peace deal between Pakistan government and the pro-Taliban tribals in North Waziristan as absolutely disastrous. He neither confirmed nor denied United States operations in the border areas.

The CIA director also made it clear that he was not in a position to confirm if President Pervez Musharraf [Images] will be able to continue in office beyond June.

"I can't talk about -- confirm or deny any, any operational activity by the CIA or any other organ of the US government. But what I can tell you about is the situation along the the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which presents a clear and present danger to Afghanistan, to Pakistan and to the West in general, and to the United States in particular" Hayden said.

"It's very clear to us that Al Qaeda has been able, over the past 18 months or so, to establish a safe haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area that they have not enjoyed before, that they are bringing operatives into that region for training," he said.

Asked about President Musharraf's 2006 agreement with the tribal warlords, Hayden said it was absolutely disastrous.

"To be fair to President Musharraf, in different times and in different circumstances, all of us would think that what he had decided to do was wise, was patient, was what you need to do over the long term. The problem was what was happening over the short term. He was, in fact, pulling forces and the writ of the Pakistani government back from the tribal region, and the Al Qaeda and the Taliban were having more and more free rein there," Hayden explained.

"The overall objective, you know, an easier military hand -- more economic, cultural, political integration, investment -- work for the long term, it's inarguable. But what it turned into, since September of '06, when Governor of North West Frontier Province Aurakzai signed that peace agreement in north Waziristan, is what I referred to a minute ago. It created that safe haven," he said.

Asked if Musharraf was going to be around in June, Hayden replied, "I don't know. This is going to be a product of the Pakistani political process".

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