WASHINGTON (CNN) – U.S. CENTCOM Commander Gen. David Petraeus said Sunday that al Qaeda, the terrorist group that organized and carried out the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, is not based in Afghanistan.
"This is a syndicate of extremist organizations – some of which are truly transnational extremists," the general told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King on CNN's State of the Union.
"They do come in and out of Afghanistan. But al Qaeda – precise al Qaeda, if you will – is not based per se in Afghanistan. Although its elements and certainly its affiliates . . . certainly do have enclaves and sanctuaries in certain parts of Eastern Afghanistan," Petraeus said.
The military commander added that the local, Afghani version of al Qaeda is still present in several districts of the country.
"The federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan – that very, very mountainous, rugged terrain – just east of the Afghan border and in the western part of Pakistan is the locus of the leadership of these organizations although they do, again, go into Afghanistan and conduct operations against our troops."
The general was responding to recent comments by Afghani president Hamid Karzai who told CNN's Wolf Blitzer last week that al Qaeda was no longer based in his country.
"I think that's an accurate assessment," Petraeus said Sunday about Karzai's remarks on CNN's The Situation Room.