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CIA terms Pak breeding ground for extremists

CIA terms Pak breeding ground for extremists

The Times of India
February 4, 2000
Title: CIA terms Pak breeding ground for extremists
Author: Agencies
Publication: times of India
Date: February 4, 2000

WASHINGTON: In a remarkably sobering assessment of the threats facing the US, CIA director George Tenet told a Senate committee Wednesday that growing resentment of American power plus new technologies means that the US has become ``a lightning rod for the disaffected''.

Tenet told the Senate select committee on intelligence, ``The fact that we are arguably the world's most powerful nation does not bestow invulnerability. In fact, it may make us a larger target for those who don't share our interests, values or beliefs.'' Pakistan is now one of the breeding grounds for extremists and Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden is still the foremost among terrorists ``because of the immediacy and seriousness of the threat he poses,'' Tenet warned.

Testifying on the fight against terrorism, he said that ``there is now an intricate web of alliances among Sunni extremists worldwide, including north Africans, radical Palestinians, Pakistanis and central Asians.'' Some of these terrorists, he said, are actively sponsored by national governments that harbour great antipathy towards the US and one is Iran which remains the most active state sponsor.

Tenet went down the long list of threats facing the US:

-- The missile threat to the US from states other than Russia or China, which includes Iran, North Korea, Iraq and Syria, is steadily emerging.

-- The spread of technology such as computers and guidance equipment means an increasing risk of substantial surprise for any attack on the US.

-- The threat of terrorism remains and in some ways becomes larger due to cooperation between various terrorist groups and their ability to finance themselves with narcotics sales.

-- Terrorist groups are more able to engage in ``information warfare'', attacking computer-based supply and control systems in the US from anywhere on the globe. It is a weapon ``that comes ashore'', affecting the daily lives of Americans across the country.

Tenet also said the war in Chechnya may impact directly on the US as the militants are pushed out of Russia. They might seek refuge and stoke militancy in the South Caucusus and Central Asia.

West Asia was heading into a much less predictable period at the same time as the US would be depending on the region for more oil a decade from now -- 40 per cent compared to 26 per cent dependency today.

In the Balkans, Montenegro, now a constituent republic of Yugoslavia, might be heading toward independence. Both Serbia and Montenegro would try to avoid a serious confrontation for now but a final showdown between them appeared to be difficult to avoid.

In South Asia, the potential for a wider and possibly nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan remained. Africa's instability would continue to grow as the economic situation in sub-Saharan Africa grew worse.

``Endemic violence and instability increase the danger that criminal and insurgent groups will zero in on individual US citizens as soft targets,'' he said.

Tenet dwelt at length on Chechnya and said the breakaway region could become the terror training ground for the new millennium. ``Afghanistan was the calling card in the '70s and '80s. Chechnya will become the calling card of this millennium in terms of where do terrorists go and train and act,'' Tenet said.

``Terrorists'' were likely to take the opportunity to inject themselves into the situation for religious reasons or to help the Chechens, he said. That in turn ``will create a cascading effect of people proving their mettle on a battleground that they will then come back and test against us in other places,'' Tenet said.

Russia's military action alone will not resolve its conflict with Chechnya, Vice Admiral Thomas Wilson, director of the defence intelligence agency, said at the same hearing. The Chechen situation has ``been going on for centuries and it won't be solved by military action,'' he said.

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