‘Heart’ of al-Qaeda in Afghan-Pakistan

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says the “heart” of al-Qaeda remains in the Afghan-Pakistan border area even as it spread its influence to the Arabian peninsula and northern Africa.

As al-Qaeda’s leaders continued to operate out of the border area, “they provide the guidance, they provide the priorities, they provide legitimacy to other al-Qaeda affiliates that are developing in other places, including in the Arabian peninsula, in Yemen in particular and in northern Africa, in the Maghreb”, Gates told reporters.

Gates, who met Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, is in Malaysia for a one-day visit to bolster defence ties amid concern in the region over China’s growing economic and naval power.

However, in its fight against the al-Qaeda terror network, the US had “strong friends”, including France and predominantly Muslim Malaysia, he said.

“We’re not in this fight by ourselves. We have some strong friends who see their own self-interest in dealing with this threat of extremist terrorism. So I’m confident that we will have the resources and the capability to continue to deal with it,” he said.

“When we point to the Maghreb, France is very much involved and when we are taking about Asia, this is one of the areas which the US and Malaysia are co-operating in. So we are not in this fight by ourselves.”