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Lashkar also Pak proxy, says Mullen

world Updated: Sep 30, 2011 00:17 IST
Yashwant Raj

Departing US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Mike Mullen is not only sticking to every word of his testimony on the Haqqani network, he has now said Pakistan uses Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist outfit targeting India, as a proxy.

Mullen told a radio interviewer on Wednesday that Pakistan supports “insurgent groups and proxies” and that a group that has been supported “historically” is Lashkar — an outfit responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

India has long maintained that the LeT has been an arm of the Pakistani military and the ISI. And the US itself knows it now from the testimony of David Headley, the man who surveyed the targets for the 2008 attacks. ISI officers — Major Iqbal specifically — were actively involved in the planning and execution of the attacks.

The Obama administration has since the testimony tried to “walk back” Admiral Mullen’s blunt description of Pakistan’s role in aiding and supporting terrorists: he had called the Haqqanis a “veritable arm” of the Pakistani military.

He had referred specially to the attacks on Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, and the September 13 attack on the US embassy there. The embassy attackers had been in touch with their Pakistani handlers during the operation. And the US intelligence was listening in.

The cellphones were later found at the incident site, with the call logs intact. While this has been cited as evidence of Pakistan’s complicity there are others who doubt it proves anything that specifically.

But some in the administration are also saying that this one incident should not be taken in isolation. There was a recent instance of the Pakistanis tipping terrorists before raiding their hideout on the basis of information provided by the US.

“They didn’t find anyone at the hideout,” said a source.

Those trying to distance the administration from Admiral Mullen’s testimony are careful not to repudiate completely what he has said, as there is general acceptance in the US of Pakistan’s duplicitous role in the fight against terrorists. But Mullen is clearly undeterred.

When asked by an National Public Radio interviewer on Wednesday if in the light of the administration’s reaction he would like to re-word his statement, he said, “I phrased it the way I wanted it to be phrased.”

Mullen intended it to be that way. Former state department official Dan Markey believes Mullen’s statement has served the purpose as intended perhaps. “He has simply changed history by taking the step he did,” Markey said.

“Mullen has boxed in the administration and given considerable ammunition to people on the Capitol Hill (house of the US congress) who will be looking to constraint or cut off assistance to Pakistan,” Markey added.

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