Describing Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as a "deadly serious group of fanatics," US lawmakers have asked Obama administration to push Islamabad to crush the Pakistan-based terror outfit blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
"This group of savages needs to be crushed," said Gary Ackerman, chairman of the House of Representatives subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. "Not in a month. Not in a year. Not when the situation stabilizes in Afghanistan. Not when things are under control in Pakistan.
"Now. Today and everyday going forward. We're not doing it, and we're not effectively leading a global effort to do it. And we're going to regret this mistake. We're going to regret it bitterly, he said at a hearing Thursday on "Bad Company: Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Growing Ambition of Islamist Militancy in Pakistan."
"We need to take this threat very, very seriously," he said noting communications intercepts made public by the Indian Government include an attack controller boasting about the carnage in Mumbai, "This isjust the trailer. The main movie is yet to come."
"The LeT is a deadly serious group of fanatics. They are well-financed, ambitious and, most disturbingly, both tolerated by and connected to the Pakistani military," Ackerman said.
While US attention has focused primarily on Al Qaeda, and the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, the LeT and other violent,
Islamist extremist groups in Pakistan have been growing in both capability and ambition, the Democratic lawmaker warned.
"As was demonstrated in the horrific Mumbai attack of November 2008, the Al Qaeda model of perpetrating highly visible, mass-casualty attacks appears to have migrated, with enormous potential consequences for the United States," Ackerman said.
"But it would be unfair and wrong to suggest that the LeT problem is strictly confined to Pakistan and the Middle East. In fact, one of the key facilitators of the Mumbai attack was an American of Pakistani extraction," he noted without naming David Coleman Headley.
Pakistani-American Headley and Pakistani-born Chicago businessman Tahawwur Hussain Rana, arrested in October have been charged in a Chicago court with helping the LeT attackers in Mumbai. Headley is also accused of scouting targets in Mumbai and elsewhere for militant groups.
"There is a temptation to think that the LeT is really India's problem; that the LeT is really just interested in the so-called 'liberation' of Jammu and Kashmir," Ackerman said.
"But the idea that this group can be appeased on the subject of Kashmir is dangerous nonsense. The LeT's true goal is not Kashmir, it is India. And the LeT is not shy about announcing that its intention is to establish an Islamic state in all of South Asia.
Dan Burton, the top Republican on the panel, said LeT's growing influence had serious implications for regional and international security.
"Dismantling and eliminating the threat posed by LeT is clearly no easy task but we cannot shy away from it," said Burton. "As we all know, Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal which would pose a grave threat to the entire region should it fall under the control of extremists."