There was nothing unfamiliar about last month's hours-long gun battle between Afghan security forces and insurgents in Nuristan province — except the identity of some of the militants. Of the 40 or so fighters killed, Gen. Mohammad Zaman Mahmoodzai, head of Afghanistan's border security force, says about a quarter had carried documents implicating them as members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based outfit better known for its role in the Kashmir insurgency and the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
The general claims that recent months have seen a steady increase of violent clashes in the east that have yielded a higher ratio of Pakistanis and other foreigners among the insurgent casualties. That, he says, is proof of the nominally Kashmir-oriented group's growing involvement in Afghanistan. The trend is confirmed by U.S. military officials, who say that well-trained LeT fighters are bringing deadlier tools and tactics to the war's second-fiercest front.
With NATO's attention fixed on the southern battle zone where the Taliban is strongest, the LeT, or "Army of the Pure," has aligned with a host of militant groups that have ramped up attacks against Afghan and U.S. forces in the borderlands and beyond. Since they began tracking the group's involvement in Afghanistan in 2008, U.S. officials say the LeT has expanded from a small presence in Kunar province to multiple cells in at least five provinces, actively collaborating with everyone from the Afghan Taliban to the Haqqani network. Kunar and Nuristan remain their focal point, provinces where the U.S. military shut down several remote, heavily targeted bases in the past year. But when NATO in July announced the arrest of two Taliban commanders accused of aiding the LeT, a statement noted the influx of LeT foot soldiers in Nangarhar province, an important commercial center and military supply route. A spike in suicide- and roadside bomb attacks against convoys and government officials have disrupted the once stable area, and Afghan security officials allege the LeT is providing fake documents to attackers.
Originally nurtured by Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), as a proxy force to drive India out of Kashmir, the LeT has since raised its profile with spectacular strikes on India's parliament and commercial capital. It was banned by the Pakistani government in 2002 under pressure from the U.S., although the organization continues to operate freely there via thinly disguised front organizations.
But according to Stephen Tankel, a U.S.-based analyst and author of the book Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba, "Lashkar was never just a Kashmir-centric organization and always had ambitions beyond the region." Today, he explains, some cadres are motivated by anti-Indian sentiment; others want to wage war against America. Because of increased Indian influence in the government of post-Taliban Afghanistan, these jihadist desires converge. And while India remains its main enemy, anti-Western activity by the LeT is nothing new — as the arrest of operatives as far away as the United States shows. "What we're seeing now is an acceleration of trends that have been in place," Tankel says, "rather than Lashkar trying to go in a new direction."
The LeT's presence in Afghanistan has coincided with mounting Pakistani concern that India's influence in Kabul represents an Indian strategy of encirclement. Ensuring a friendly regime in Kabul was the reason for the ISI helping the Taliban seize power in Afghanistan in 1996, and U.S. officials suspect ongoing Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban since the movement's ouster by U.S.-led forces in 2001. U.S. intelligence officials also suspect a direct Pakistani hand in some attacks in Afghanistan, notably the mid-2008 Indian embassy bombing in Kabul that left 58 people dead. More recently, Afghan intelligence officials blamed a Feb. 26 attack on a guesthouse in the capital on LeT operatives. (Half of the 18 killed were Indian nationals.) Pakistan, for its part, has denied any responsibility, insisting that its priority is its battle with its domestic Taliban insurgency. But in light of its long-standing reluctance to crack down on the LeT — and alleged involvement in attacks in Afghanistan — Tankel says we "must take seriously" the possibility that elements within the ISI are making use of LeT militants in Afghanistan, even if "there's no smoking gun."
While there's some dispute over just how substantial the LeT presence in Afghanistan really is, Afghan and U.S. officials agree that the group's role is likely to escalate as Western forces begin to withdraw and Pakistan tries to strengthen its influence. What's more, some contend, the LeT's threat should not be measured in numbers. Given that its training program was developed by the Pakistani army, its operatives are still considered among the most capable at small-unit tactics and explosives, making them ideally suited to the low-intensity Afghan conflict. "A few well-equipped pros who go around teaching and coordinating can do a lot more damage" than your average Taliban guerrilla, says the senior U.S. military official, noting the increased level of cooperation. "They're already having a big impact."
LeT already made its presence after Indian embassy attack in Kabul. The only reason ISI pushing LeT in Afghanistan is to trouble India and its assets. Since already Afghanistan is battling insurgency within, its high time that India start pumping troops to protect its assets and vested interest in Afghanistan. We can even conduct assassination of LeT operatives in Afghan using the intelligence.
Pakistan has been mortally afraid of India ever since it came into being. Hence, its educational pattern, as per the Committee established in Pakistan to go into the issue headed by Hoodbhoy, was based on a Hate India and Hate Hindu context. This manifested in a sort of brainwashing that one can still observe amongst those in Pakistan and is proved by the comments on various Pakistani fora, which many may have visited.
There was certainly something amiss since Jinnah in his last days, told Colonel Ilahi Bux, personal physician to Jinnah, that he told Liaquat Ali Khan, "I made you Prime Minister. You think you made Pakistan. I have made Pakistan. But now I am convinced that I have committed the biggest blunder in my life. If now I get an opportunity, I will go to Delhi and tell Jawahar Lal to forget about the follies of the past and become friends again." Biggest Blunder
The paranoia in Pakistan over India is aggrandised because, notwithstanding its touting to be better than India, in reality they find that Pakistan is but a pale shadow of what they imagine it should be. Democracy is a failure. They could only a cobble a Constitution on 23 March 1956 when India did it practically immediately after its Independence. India has remained faithfully to its democratic form, while Pakistan has swung like a pendulum from quasi democracy to martial law; quasi because it has always had to be accountable to the Army even when there was democracy prevailing. Pakistan entered a defence pact with the US imagining that being allied to the US, parity with India would be possible through financial and military aid. India continued in its stand alone mode. Economically Pakistan is no patch to India and in fact in all fields Pakistan has not made its mark, compared to India.
Therefore, a seething impotent rage and so is the paranoia that India has nothing else at hand but to destroy Pakistan is but natural. Hence, the fear of being isolated and encircled as mentioned in the article.
Not being able to come close to competing with India, it decided to put a spanner in India’s growth by spreading terrorism with its fanatics who were surplus and unemployed after the Russians quit Afghanistan and with the fresh fanatics of their madrassas, duly funded by Saudi Arabia.
If the US is aware that the LeT has global tendencies, apart from it ‘main enemy’ India, then it should gear up to ensure that they are taken to task, even if it means forays or even campaigns within Pakistan.
Maybe it suits US interests to keep India worried so that India is forced to have a closer relationship with the US and serve the US interest in so far as China is concerned. A sort of quid pro quo.