BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO voiced concern on Wednesday at a U.S. intelligence report highlighting the growing strength of al Qaeda Islamist militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
The 26-nation Western defense alliance, which is heading international peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan, said the report highlighted the need for closer political cooperation, economic and military assistance to the Pakistani government.
“There is no doubt that NATO and NATO allies would meet this kind of report with concern. It is of concern to be told that al Qaeda and the Taliban are getting stronger in an area across the border from Afghanistan,” NATO spokesman James Appathurai said.
The unclassified report by the 16-agency U.S. intelligence community said Osama bin Laden’s militant network, which carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, had gained strength and become entrenched in remote northwestern Pakistan.
Appathurai told a news briefing it showed why NATO needed a good political relationship with President Pervez Musharraf’s government, which was engaged in “a significant effort to try to curb this kind of violent extremism in its own country, which has every danger of spilling over into Afghanistan”.
NATO, Afghan and Pakistani intelligence officers were working together at a NATO intelligence centre in Kabul, and some NATO allies such as the United States were working with the Pakistani government to help boost border control.
But NATO as an alliance would not play any kind of military role inside Pakistan, Appathurai stressed.