Vote of Confidence

By Sebastian Sprenger / January 21, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Despite heavy Taliban and al Qaeda activity in Pakistan, the State Department's senior counterterrorism official believes the country's atomic weapons are safe.

"Obviously, whenever you see violence inside a country that has nuclear weapons, you have to have some concern," Daniel Benjamin said at a breakfast with reporters yesterday. "But that said, we consulted pretty extensively with the Pakistanis, and we are confident that they have their arsenal under control," he added.

Benjamin said Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas remain the "beating heart" of al Qaeda, and "the best guess" is still that al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are hiding somewhere in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

"The fact that we have had, as many others have said, very little information on where bin Laden and al-Zawahiri are for many years now is not really news," according to Benjamin. "Obviously, it's a real problem for us, a real challenge for us, and we're working to develop that information."