The US sees the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) as a "co-equal threat" as the Taliban, said US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke on Thursday.
The US raises its concerns about the LeT with the Pakistani military "all the time," he added.
On a brief visit to New Delhi, during which he met PM Manmohan Singh, Holbrooke said the US saw the LeT as "terribly dangerous" and placed the outfit on par with groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The LeT has the same goals as the other terrorist groups, he said. It wants to provoke conflict between Delhi and Islamabad. It targets US and Western troops in Afghanistan.
"We have seen these groups coming together in the past three or four years because of the pressure they are under," said Holbrooke.
He insisted that the US would hold the line in Afghanistan. "The Taliban are not going to take over Afghanistan."
The reconciliation policy — of bringing back Taliban members into the mainstream — was about getting lower level soldiers to rejoin the political process, he said.
Holbrooke said the US has "red lines" regarding the process. It would be setting pre-conditions: Al Qaeda must be renounced; the constitution must be accepted; and weapons turned in.
He also said the US accepts that India has legitimate interests in this neighbourhood and not just in countries with which it shares a border. But Pakistan was essential to bringing stability to the Afghan region, he insisted. "Improved US-Pakistan relations are not bad for India," he said. Nor were deeper Indo-US ties bad for Pakistan.
AfPak trade treaty
The recently signed Afghan-Pakistan trade treaty is not without benefits for India, Holbrooke indicated at a media interaction.
Pakistan declined to accept transit rights for goods from Afghanistan to India, as Kabul wanted. However, the Afghans did get them to agree to "allow Afghan trucks to drive up to the Wagah border and offload their goods on to Indian trucks".
The treaty also has a "national treatment" clause. This, in trade parlance, is a nondiscrimination clause that will mean if India and Pakistan ever sign a trade treaty, Afghanistan will automatically receive similar rights. In effect, merging the trade regimes of the two countries. This was put in at the behest of Kabul, Holbrooke said, but agreed to by Islamabad.