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In January, the country’s most influential Islamic cleric, Sheik Abdel-Majid al-Zindani, warned against “foreign occupation.” Sheik al-Zindani is an extremist who once associated with Osama bin Laden and whom the U.S. has called “a specially designated global terrorist.”

Senior U.S. military and counterterrorism officials say al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan — including bin Laden — present the most serious threat and could best plan and execute a complex Sept. 11-style attack against the United States.

The U.S. now has a more formal, established program there. To date, special operations forces have trained about 1,500 members of the Frontier Corps and 2,000 members of the Pakistani military.