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She added that, since the 1980s, Pakistani governments have relied on religious parties sponsoring and affiliated with the madrassas for political support.

“Many of the madrassas go unregistered and unmonitored; nor have promises to the madrassas to deliver aid for reform and beef up the curriculum been upheld,” she said.

Some madrassas in Pakistan continue to provide recruits for militant groups fighting and killing Pakistani troops and even U.S. forces across the border in Afghanistan.

Ms. Felbab-Brown said while particular madrassas are “feeders for specific militant groups, others simply produce radicalized individuals.”

Rep. Nita M. Lowey, New York Democrat and a member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, said at a panel discussion Wednesday that the current public education system in Pakistan is in “shambles” and that this fuels support for militancy.

“Expanding access to education can help reduce the risk of all conflict,” she said. “The violence and extremism that embroils parts of Pakistan has far-reaching regional and international security implications.”

This week, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American, admitted trying to detonate a bomb in New York’s Times Square. Shahzad said he received training and financial assistance from the Pakistani Taliban.

Madrassas are not the only institutions that produce potential terrorists, as many well-known terrorists have had a college education.

“There’s nothing peculiar about that to Islam. College students have often been the leading force in revolutionary, terrorist or communist groups and movements around the world,” Ms. Felbab-Brown said.

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said insurgent activity would be taking place even if madrassas didn’t exist. “But if there’s a connection between the two, it would most likely be found in the tribal areas where the government doesn’t exercise much control,” the official said.

Rebecca Winthrop, who has co-written a new report on madrassas in Pakistan for the Brookings Institution, said at the discussion Wednesday that while some madrassas do contribute to increasing militancy in Pakistan, their numbers are small.

“There is no steep rise in madrassa enrollment … this is not a growth industry,” Ms. Winthrop said. “We do need to take the militant madrassas issue very seriously … in all likelihood they should probably be shut down.”