The rising number of Pakistan linked terrorist plots in the United States largely stem from Islamabad's continued support to some anti-India extremist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed for the Mumbai terror attack, a new study concludes.
"The country's acquisition of nuclear weapons emboldened its support to militant groups by dampening concerns of retaliation by India," says the report released Monday by the RAND Corp. a non-profit study group frequently hired by the Pentagon.
Citing the recent failed car-bombing in New York by a Pakistani-American, it says the rise in the Pakistan linked terrorist plots "is partly a result of an unsuccessful strategy by Pakistan and the US to weaken the range of militant groups operating in Pakistan".
Examining counter insurgency efforts in Pakistan, the study finds that "militant groups persist in the nation because Pakistani leaders continue to provide support to some groups and have not yet developed an effective counter insurgency strategy that protects the local population.
"While Pakistan has had some success halting militant groups since 2001, these groups continue to present a significant threat to not only Pakistan, but to the United States and a host of other countries as well," said Seth G. Jones, the study's co-author and a political scientist at RAND.
"A number of militant networks-including Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad-remain entrenched in Pakistan and pose a grave threat to the state and the region."
In addition to Al Qaeda, numerous foreign and domestic militant groups have established networks in the Federally Administered Tribal Area, the North West Frontier Province and other areas of Pakistan.
Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the attempted Times Square car bombing, reportedly had ties to several groups, such as Tehreek-E-Taliban Pakistan and the Haqqani network, the study notes.
Researchers suggest the United States should restrict some military assistance to Pakistan until the nation ends its support of militant groups operating on its soil. US strategy is focused too much on carrots and too little on sticks.
Jones and co-author Christine Fair of Georgetown University say that Pakistan's army and the Frontier Corps have failed to demonstrate a consistent ability to clear and hold territory for long periods.
While Pakistan has undertaken a number of operations against insurgent groups since 2001, the study finds the successes are short-lived and do not address the long-term threat.
The Pakistan Army and the Frontier Corps forces have had some recent successes, however. This includes efforts during Operation Sher Dil in 2008 (Bajaur region), Operation Rah-e-Rast in 2009 (Swat region) and Operation Rah-e-Nijat in 2009 and 2010 (South Waziristan region), the report finds.
"Yet even with this success, Pakistan's efforts are thwarted by its decision to support some militant groups. The country's acquisition of nuclear weapons emboldened its support to militant groups by dampening concerns of retaliation by India," it says.
In recent months, there appear to be changes in Pakistan's policy as evidenced in the capture of senior Taliban leaders such as Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. But it remains unclear whether Pakistani leaders have made a systematic break with militant groups, the report finds.