Al-Qaeda has set its sights on the increasingly unstable Pakistan, American and Pakistani intelligence officials tell the New York Times. “They smell blood, and they are intoxicated by the idea of a jihadist takeover in Pakistan,” said a former CIA analyst. The group no longer operates in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus told Congress yesterday, instead using Pakistan as its nerve center.
Taliban gains in Swat and Buner have already brought al-Qaeda closer to Islamabad and helped its recruiting efforts. Though it’s unlikely militants could defeat Pakistan’s powerful military, intelligence officials fear they could create “mini-Afghanistans” throughout the nation. But the local focus may reflect desperation as much as opportunism; American officials say CIA airstrikes have diminished al-Qaeda’s ability to hit its traditional Western targets.