US & Canada

Hillary Clinton hails success in 'devastating' al-Qaeda

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Media captionHillary Clinton: "No one who targets innocent civilians of any nationality should be tolerated or protected"

Al-Qaeda's senior leadership has been devastated and its ability to operate is greatly diminished, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has testified.

Speaking before a key US Congress committee, she said partnership with Pakistan was key to this success.

But she insisted Pakistan should eliminate safe havens for terror groups around its border with Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was found and killed by US special forces in Pakistan earlier in 2011.

A long-running covert drone operation also targets al-Qaeda, Taliban and other insurgent figures in the mountainous tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Speaking to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Mrs Clinton said that the Obama administration was "meeting our commitments and progressing towards our goals" in the region.

She described a "three-track strategy of fight, talk, build", and said the US would meet its 2014 deadline of handing over security control in Afghanistan.

Squeezing safe havens

Mrs Clinton recently returned from a trip that included visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where she said US officials emphasised the need for Pakistani leadership to "squeeze" the Haqqani network and shut down safe-havens.

Mrs Clinton has blamed the Haqqani group, a network of insurgents with roots in Pakistani and Afghan territory, for a series of attacks against US interests in Afghanistan.

Islamabad has been accused of tolerating or even encouraging the activities of the Haqqani network, something Mrs Clinton said she had spoken out against during her visits to Kabul and Islamabad.

"I explained that trying to distinguish between so-called good terrorists and bad terrorists is ultimately self-defeating and dangerous.

"No one who targets innocent civilians of any nationality should be tolerated or protected," she told the committee.

Mrs Clinton's testimony echoed frustrations expressed in September by Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, over Pakistan's ties with the Haqqani group.

He told Congress that elements of the government of Pakistan were "very active" with the group, calling Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence a "veritable arm" of the network.

Pakistan denies association with the insurgent group.

Mrs Clinton said, however, that Pakistan "has a crucial role to play in this process and a big stake in its outcome" and that the US was committed to its relationship with Islamabad.

She said creating economic opportunity would be an important part of maintaining stability, and said a policy called the New Silk Road would help foster economic co-operation in the region.

A civilian presence in Afghanistan would continue after 2014, when the US intends to hand military security of the country back to Afghanistan.

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