WASHINGTON, April 12: President George Bush has said that Pakistan, and not Afghanistan or Iraq, is now the most likely place where a plot could be hatched to carry out any 9/11-type attack in the US.
In an interview with ABC News, Mr Bush described the tribal region along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border as one of the most dangerous areas in the world today where “Al Qaeda had established safe havens and was plotting attacks against the United States”.
Asked to comment on an assessment of US intelligence reports that if there was another 9/11 plot being hatched, it was probably in Afghanistan and Pakistan and not in Iraq, Mr Bush said: “I would say not in Afghanistan. I would say in... .”
The interviewer interrupted him and asked “Pakistan?”
“Yes. Probably true,” responded Mr Bush. “And, you know, all the more reason to have the capacity to listen to … terrorists making phone calls. That’s why we need to have this Fisa law,” which allows phone tapping.
“We’re still under threat, and we’re still pressuring terrorists. And we’ve been pretty successful at bringing to justice the number-three person in Al Qaeda, with Pakistan’s help, by the way,” he added.
Mr Bush said the threat from Al Qaeda elements hiding in Pakistan also justified his efforts to increase the size of the US army and the Marine Corps.
Asked if he saw the next 9/11 coming from the region which included Afghanistan and Pakistan, why did he not send more troops to Afghanistan, Mr Bush said: “Because they (Al Qaeda) are not in Afghanistan. And if they were in Afghanistan, they’d be routed out of Afghanistan. We’ve got plenty of firepower to take on Al Qaeda cells in Afghanistan.”
“Then why is Admiral Mike Mullen so worried about that area?” he was asked.
“We’re all concerned about the area,” said Mr Bush. “This is the area in which Al Qaeda had had safe havens before. And any time you can find instability or anytime you can find vacuums, we’ve got to worry about it.”
Mr Bush said that in Afghanistan, the US was part of a larger coalition, which included its Nato allies who promised to send more troops to the country at a recent conference in Bucharest, Romania.