(LeT = Lashkar-e-Toiba, a militant Pakistani Islamist organization, see on en.wikipedia).
By K.N. Pandita
After access to more details of Al Qaeda-Taliban-ISI triumvirate axis, as reflected from various sources including Headley-Tahavuur Rana disclosures, security czars in the US have found it unavoidable to bring the powerful Pakistan terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyaba under radar. Though the outfit has been already brought on terrorist list of the US, yet official circles in Washington are convinced that this organization is not relenting in its agenda of striking terror at selected places and countries. “In South Asia, LeT – the organization responsible for the rampage in Mumbai in 2008 that killed over 100 people, including six Americans – constitutes a formidable terrorist threat to Indian, US and other Western interests in South Asia and potentially elsewhere,” said the National Strategy for Counter-Terrorism released by the White House.
As per the 19-page report, the US counter-terrorism efforts against LeT will continue to target the outfit’s capability to conduct and support operations that endanger US interests or regional stability, including the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan. In a clear indication US security official assert that “much of our effort against LeT will continue to centre on coordinating with, enabling, and improving the will and capabilities of partner nations – including in South Asia, Europe and the Arabian Gulf – to counter the group and its terrorist activities,” the White House said in its report, which for the first time made public the key aspects of its policy to defeat terrorism.
The report is mainly focused on al-Qaeda and its affiliated terrorist groups. But going beyond the decimation of Osama in Abbotabad and continued drone attacks on terrorists in AF-Pak zone, the policy planners in Washington perceive that even if they achieve the ultimate defeat of al-Qaeda in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre, an expanded and diverse network of terrorist groups determined to focus beyond their local environments is likely to persist, and the reference is to LeT as the most dangerous terrorist group. The White House’s rating of LeT as a serious threat was a far cry from the US position a few years ago which viewed Lashkar as an outfit of “militants and freedom fighters” dedicated to the Kashmir cause. But in post 26/11 scenario and the unfolding of origins of its terrorist plans, LeT is recognized as one of the most lethal Pakistan-based terror outfits engaged in terror activities not only in India but also against Western nations, including the US. LeT’s global outreach was confirmed in the statement of arrested American terrorist David Coleman Headley. He had confessed to having scouted potential terror targets for LeT in India and Denmark, where it planned to target office of the newspaper that had published a controversial cartoon.
This unambiguous assertion by the White House authorities will be interpreted as a clear message to Pakistan that the activities of LeT are under scanner and if necessary, proper action will be taken to trim its wings in whatever way possible. Along with posing direct threat to American interests, the LeT is also engaged in a massive hate campaign against the US and India. What has made Washington to focus on LeT are some revelations made by Headley in regard to overt connection between a particular section in ISI and LeT. Although Washington has ruled out total break up with Pakistan believing that the country is of strategic importance to the interests of the US in South and Central Asia, yet it appears there is serious contradiction in terms as Washington would hunt with the hound and run with the hare. Washington will have to prioritize its options. It should be possible for policy planners to bring pressure on Pakistan to see the closure of this outfit lock, stock and barrel. That would evidently lead to the strengthening of relations between the US and Pakistan. At the moment, these relations are mired in mutual suspicion and fault finding that are harmful to the peace in the region. It is not easy either for Islamabad or for Washington to dismantle the LeT structure fully because of the covert support the organization has been receiving from the Pakistan Army and the ISI. In fact, Pakistan Army considers LeT, its Maginot line against India. The regrettable dimension is that LeT is well poised to forestall any real democratic dispensation in Pakistan that would liberalize its democratic institutions. It is for the Pakistani civil society to comprehend the disastrous consequences of her Army patronizing and promoting an organization that has tremendous potential of wrecking the entire polity of that country.