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LeT threat to coalition forces in Afghanistan

world Updated: Jul 05, 2010 02:22 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya

In what is the first clear indication that the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT), the Pakistan-based terrorist group behind the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, is posing a serious threat in Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) remarked upon a "recent influx of LeT insurgents" into Nangarhar province in that country.

The revelation came in an official ISAF statement on the capture of a Taliban commander, a facilitator and two others. The statement said, "The commander is directly linked to the Taliban emir of Khogyani district and assisted with the recent influx of LeT insurgents into the province. LeT is the Pakistan-based terrorist organisation responsible for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks."

Intelligence analyst Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal, said, "ISAF is definitely concerned with LeT's presence in Afghanistan. The fact the group was explicitly named in the press release is a very good indication of this. US commanders in eastern Afghanistan have begun to express concern over the increasing complexity of attacks."

He said that often LeT operatives would "quit" the terror group when they went to Afghanistan and rejoin on their return to Pakistan to give "plausible deniability" to the group that it does not fight in Afghanistan.

He said the LeT "believed to aid in the Mumbai-like suicide terror assaults" that are taking place in Kabul and elsewhere, adding that "LeT fighters are well trained by Pakistan's military in assault tactics and they act as a force multiplier to Taliban units they may be attached to."

India has frequently complained about the lack of action against the LeT by Pakistan where it continues to function openly as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and has a sprawling complex in Muridke, overseen by Hafiz Saeed, considered by India to be the mastermind behind 26/11.

But with the LeT moving into Afghanistan, partly to help with recruitment, concern is growing within the Obama Administration about its operations.

While speaking at the Aspen Institute recently, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff had pointed out that while the LeT had generally been focused on India, there were now "LeT elements focused on Afghanistan."

Last year, Mike Lieter, Director of the National Counter Terrorism Center, issued a similar warning during a Congressional hearing: "LeT's involvement in attacks in Afghanistan against US and coalition forces and provision to support to the Taliban and Al Qaeda extremists there pose a threat to US and coalition forces."

American analysts have become increasingly worried by the LeT's expansion and inaction by the Pakistan establishment. Recently, Daniel Markey, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the LeT was of "enormous concern" and there had not been concrete, firm action by the Pakistanis. He said, "That's an area which some people say is a ticking time bomb in South Asia."