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‘US made a mistake by not going after Laskhar’

The United States made a mistake in not going after the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayyeba earlier, said an expert at a think-tank in Washington, Writes V Krishna.

world Updated: Dec 07, 2008 00:26 IST
V Krishna

The United States made a mistake in not going after the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayyeba earlier, said an expert at a think-tank in Washington.

“In the past, Washington has been reluctant to pursue Kashmir-focused terrorist groups like the LeT with the same zeal that it demonstrates in pursuing Al Qaeda. This was a mistake,” Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Centre, told the Hindustan Times on


The LeT is the prime suspect in last week’s attacks in Mumbai, which left nearly 172 people dead and more than 294 others injured. Six of those killed were Americans.

The LeT was designated a foreign terrorist organisation by the State Department in December 2001, but the United States did not pressure Pakistan to shut down the group’s operations there, Curtis said.

“Groups like the LeT are not only a threat to India, they also pose a global threat. It has taken Washington a long time to wake up to this reality, but hopefully Admiral (Mike) Mullen’s apparent tough message to the Pakistanis on Wednesday to close down the LeT signals a new policy from Washington.”

A State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, rejected Curtis’s charge.

While it claims to be focused on Kashmir, the LeT has become a global jihadi organisation, another analyst said. The group does not just seek the end of In dian rule in Jammu and Kashmir, “rather it seeks the creation of a caliphate to dominate all of South Asia well into Central Asia,” said Bruce Riedel, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former CIA official.

“This was an extraordinary radical movement to begin with, and over the last decade it has become increasingly radical,” Riedel said at a discussion on ‘Mumbai Terrorist Attacks: A Challenge for India and the World’ on Wednesday.

Elaborating on the global linkages of the LeT, Riedel said it has been seen fighting alongside the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan; LeT operatives have also been fighting in small numbers in Iraq. It has provided hideouts on numerous occasions for key Al Qaeda operatives. And one of the four London Metro suicide bombers, Shehzad Tanweer, was allegedly trained in an LeT camp.

Riedel said the LeT was founded with the assistance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and Osama bin Laden. It was banned in Pakistan in 2002 by then-President Pervez Musharraf but continues to operate under a new name, Jamaat- ud-Dawa. It has denied any involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

Riedel and other analysts are sceptical of the Pakistani Government’s claims that the ISI no longer has any links with the LeT.