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Osama In Pakistan; Tribal Areas 'Global HQ Of Qaeda': Adm. Mullen

The top military advisor to the U.S President described Pakistan's lawless tribal belt near Afghanistan as the "global headquarters" of al-Qaeda, and said his country believed that the terror network's chief Osama bin Laden and his deputy Aiman al-Zawahiri were hiding in that country's lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

Because of the presence of these two in the region, "a principal part of the overall Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy is focused on the elimination of safe havens" for them, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen told reporters at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad Sunday night.

Asserting that the Haqqani network was strongly engaged and involved in insurgency in Afghanistan, he said there was need to take a much stronger position against it.

Mullen, on his nineteenth visit to Pakistan, said Islamabad made critical decisions to achieve success in the war against terrorism, and appreciated the role being played by the Pakistan Army and the country's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in capturing terrorists.

Clarifying that there were "no secret American troops" operating in Pakistan, he said all U.S. troops in the country were stationed at Pakistan's request for training purposes.

Mullen denied any U.S. role in influencing Pakistan government to give a three-year extension to Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Army Chief of Staff, saying: "Pakistan is a sovereign country and it is an internal issue of Pakistan."

His comments (on bin Laden) came days after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ruffled feathers in Islamabad with a similar statement in Pakistan. Her assertion was dismissed by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi as "speculation."

"I assume somebody in this government, from top to bottom, does know where bin Laden is. So, I think we have got to keep pressure on, which we are doing," she added.

U.S. intelligence agencies say bin Laden is alive.

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