WASHINGTON - The United States Tuesday brushed aside a call by a Republican lawmaker for creating an independent Balochistan , saying Washington respects Pakistan's territorial integrity and does not support independence for the restive province.
"The United States respects the territorial integrity of Pakistan. It is not the policy of the administration to support independence for Balochistan ," the State Department said in a written response to a question raised during its daily press briefing.
The State Department said it is aware of the comments of Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert in an interview to an American media outlet in which the lawmaker said that the best solution to the Afghan problem would be to carve a separate and independent Balochistan out of Pakistan.
"Members of Congress express a wide range of views. Such comments do not in any way imply US government endorsement," the State Department added.
Two top US intelligence officials told Congress that Al-Qaeda is no longer “on the run”’ as leaders have been saying for years, and that Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas remain the militant movement's ideological, but not operational, centre.
“Is Al-Qaeda on the run and on the path to defeat?” Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican, asked in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper responded, “No, it is morphing and - and franchising itself and not only here but other areas of the world.”
Lt General Michael Flynn, director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, added, “They are not.” Former president George W Bush asserted that that Al-Qaeda network was “on the run” as early as October 2001. President Obama adopted the phrase and used it repeatedly on the campaign trail in 2012. Touting his foreign policy record, Obama often said, “Al-Qaeda is on the run and Osama bin Laden is dead.”
In the past year, however, Obama has used more nuanced language to clarify that Al-Qaeda affiliates remain an evolving threat. “While we put Al-Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as Al-Qaeda affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world,” he said last month in his State of the Union address.
Clapper said although Al-Qaeda has been “profoundly degraded, [but] not eliminated by any stretch” in FATA, which remains the movement's ideological centre.
"My definition of core Al-Qaeda is the leadership group that has been essentially in the FATA in Pakistan. Clearly, they have been profoundly degraded, not eliminated by any stretch," he said.
"So that area, in my view, remains the ideological centre for Al-Qaeda, but not operational centre any longer," Clapper said responding to questions on the presence of core of the terrorist organisation in Pakistan.
Al-Qaeda's chief Osama bin Laden was killed in a covert US raid in Abbottabad. The whereabouts of his successor Aiyman al-Zawahiri remains unknown, but it's believed that he is hiding in Pakistan, it was pointed out.
"I think an organisation like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, poses a much greater sort of tactical, near-term operational threat to the homeland than does the ideological centre of core Al-Qaeda in the FATA in Pakistan," he said. Clapper said that some of the Al-Qaeda leaders might have moved to Syria.
"Probably of greater concern, as I mentioned in my opening statement, are some Al-Qaeda veterans from the Afghanistan-Pakistan area, a small nucleus of them who have also moved to Syria, which has served as a magnet for many of these extremists," he said.
"They do harbour designs on attacks in Europe and the homeland," the official added. He explained that “core Al-Qaeda - the central leadership - picks and chooses who is among the wannabes or are actually knighted, if you will, so designated as an Al-Qaeda organisation.”