Himanshi Dhawan, TNN | May 28, 2011, 12.44am IST; Times of India
NEW DELHI: The US has acknowledged that ISI-backed terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is as big a threat as al-Qaida.
US secretary for homeland security Janet Napolitano said, "I think in my judgment, the LeT ranks right up there in the al-Qaida and related groups as terrorist organisations, one that seeks to harm people and takes innocent lives." The statement of the US official, who is here for a bilateral security dialogue, comes in the wake of strong evidence that Lashkar had outgrown its initial focus on J&K to emerge as a global terror threat, matching al-Qaida in aspiration, resources and reach.
"Our perspective, the US perspective, is LeT is very very, I do not want to say important as that gives it too much credibility, but an organisation that is of the same ranking as the al-Qaida related groups," Napolitano said after the first homeland security dialogue with home minister P Chidambaram on Friday.
Napolitano was talking against the backdrop of the Chicago trial of Pakistan-born Lashkar jihadis David Headley alias Dawood Gilani and Tahawwur Hussain Rana in connection with the ISI-scripted 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai.
Headley has disclosed to the US's Federal Bureau of Investigation that Lashkar, which set out by seeking to wage jihad to wrest "Muslim lands" of J&K, Hyderabad and Junagarh, has now set its sight farther afield, plotting to assassinate the editor of a Danish newspaper which had published offending cartoons of Prophet Mohammad.
During the Mumbai attacks as well, the Lashkar terrorists targeted westerners, killing six Americans among others.
Pre-26/11, Pakistan had consistently held that Lashkar, being devoted to the "liberation" of Kashmir, posed no threat to the US. The alibi had started wearing thin after Lashkar terrorists were found to be involved in terror plots in the US and Australia before 26/11 and the mounting evidence of its collaboration with al-Qaida in Afghanistan alerted the Americans to the grave threat.
Napolitano said the US had worked with India on investigations into the Mumbai attacks and would grant Indian investigators further access to Headley.
"The United States has given India full access to the witness and once the case is over, more access will be given. It is an example of how our two countries cooperate," she said. She, however, did not respond to questions on if the US should influence Pakistan in extradition of one of the most wanted men -- Hafiz Saeed.
Earlier in the day, Chidambaram had described Pakistan as the most "difficult neighbourhood" in the world. In his opening remarks to the homeland security dialogue, he said, "The global epicentre of terrorism is in our immediate western neighbourhood. The vast infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan has for long flourished as an instrument of state policy."
The minister added, "Today, different terrorist groups, operating from the safe havens in Pakistan, are becoming increasingly fused. The society in Pakistan has become increasingly radicalised. Its economy has weakened and the state structure in Pakistan has become fragile." Terming terrorism as the "principal challenge" for both the countries, Chidambaram pushed for the need to address challenges, including counterfeit currency, narcotics trafficking, threats and risks in cyber space. In a joint statement, the two countries expressed the need for cooperation in tackling money laundering and fake currency menace, cyber security, illicit financing, transnational crimes besides cooperation in issues related to cross-border terrorism.
The two leaders agreed to strengthen intelligence exchange, information sharing, forensics and investigation, access and sharing of data relating to terrorism and security of infrastructure. The two sides are expected to meet after six months to review progress.
On the issue of Krittika Biswas having sued New York City, Napolitano said she sympathized with her but did not want to comment on the matter as it was in court.
Napolitano also met finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on cooperation and assistance in money laundering, counterfeiting of currency, cross-border terrorism, cyber security and secured cargo.
In the meeting, Mukherjee stressed on the need for cooperation in investigations relating to money laundering, drug-money flow, stashing of black money abroad and transfer-pricing mechanism.
dont believe what mr napolitano, he tell one thing here in india and one in pakistan .its better to tell him stop courting both u cannot be a friend of a terrorist country & same time act like a friend a of the country that is a victim of the first one.
Well the footnote in this is LeT is a threat to US as well now. Post 26/11, lot of evidence has emerged that LeT cadres have been influenced by AQ ideology and consider attacking the US more important than attacking India. Even in 26/11 a specfic attempt was made to attack Americans.
In any case, in a perverted sort of way, its good for India that at the cadre level LeT activists are more interested in targeting the US and its allies than India including it seems in some cases the PA/ISI
On 26/11 specific attempts were made to target Americans AND jews apart from any Indian they could slay.
It would be naive or wishful to believe that LeT cadres are more interesting in targeting Americans or PA/ISI than Indians. These barbarians have equal if not more contempt and hatred towards India and West and it's a matter of oppurtnutity that determines who they kill first. They'll kill anyone they consider munafiq and kufr at th first oppurtunity they get- Indians, Americans, Pakistanis, Afghans..anyone.
America is finally coming to terms with the uncontrollable monster that is LeT. Their likely approach to tackle them would be two-fold.
1. Ensure that they have minimal oppurtunities to attack US/Western interests- either by distracting them to focus their guns on India or stepping up their security with minimal contact with Pakistanis and likely sympathisers
2. Take out LeT assets inmical to the West one by one, while propping up seemingly India-centric elements to takeover the organisation.
American actions in recent times seem to gravitate towards my second hypothesis.
The fact that LeT is currently focussed on western specifcally western targets is not my opinion but what Christine Fair said in her CSPAN testimony afew weeks back and based on the research done by New America Foundation's Stephen Tankel. Google it and you can read up a 30pg paper on LeT and he is also coming out with a book later in the year.
The main idea is that LeT cadres - not the leadership - is acting more independantly and has been heavily influenced by Al Qaeda. In case you did'nt know, AQ is not interested in India and is almost exclusively focussed on the US and western targets. The LeT leadership is under pressure from the ISI to prevent its cadre from attacking western targets and would allow them to "release steam" by attacking India. But post 26/11 there is enormous pressure to not attack India either. Now with the US sitting next door in Afghanistan and within Pakistan, the LeT cadres will obvioulsy be restless. Hence, they are breaking away, calling the LeT leadership, the PA/ISI as American controlled agents and then planning attacks against the West and US.
What the US will do is something to be seen. According to Christine Fair, she believes that the ISI/PA will never completely shut down the LeT until the normalisation with India does not happen because they see it as a force multiplier. According Stephen, he feels that at present even if PA/ISI leadership wanted to, the lower officers would revolt because every other militant group has already been banned or shutdown. It will be interesting to see what policy steps the US can come up with.
Christine UnFair is one of most ignorant anlaysts out there. Her outpourings are dichotomous and confusing even to herself and devoid of any intgerity and substance. In all her ramblings there's not even a hint of any understanding of Indian interests. Her proclivity and indeed those of many influential State department mandarins is that terrorists groups are fine as long as they DO NOT target Western (read American) interests. Try reading her latest diatribe "Try To See It My Way" to understand how pernicious her viewpoints are.
All this talk of LeT being a big threat to US came in when they realised that LeT was not content at targeting India alone. They haave wider ambitions as you pointed out, but at no point they were specifically focussed on the West. If anything, LeT has widened it's target space to include Western interests in addition to Indian interests. Destruction of India as a nation, culture and civilisation remains on top of their agenda and clearly evident from the outpourings of their senior and mid-level leadership including the despicable Hafeez Sayeed.
As for AQ not being interested in India, that's a naive assumption to make. The fact remains that outfits such as Haqqani, LeT, JeM, AQ, Jundullah, LeJ, SeS are so far mated with each other that it's difficult to say where one ends and where the other begins. AQ senior leadership has America and its allies firmly in their sights and their primary aim is to destory the Americans. However, it's naive to assume that they are working to undermine India either directly or via their proxies and subordinates such as Let, IM, SIMI etc. The various attacks clearly have the figerprints of a global terrorist network under the umbrella of AQ.