The US has not shown the same seriousness of intent in going after Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, the Pakistan-based terrorist group responsible for the Mumbai attacks in 2009, as it has after Al Qaeda despite the outfit’s growing reach and firepower.
“We in the US have been slow to see this problem,” Bruce Riedel told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview on Thursday, adding, “(this focus on Al Qaeda and not on LeT) is not working, it’s not working at all.” “Are we doing enough?” asked Riedel, a former CIA officer who gave President Barack Obama the bad news that the US was losing the war in Afghanistan. “Look at the evidence before us.”
“Two years after Mumbai, Hafeez Saeed (the Lashkar chief) walks free and his campus outside of Lahore is bustling with activity,” said he. That’s despite the fact that Americans were killed in the Mumbai attacks. In fact, he stressed, Americans – especially Jewish Americans – were targeted.
Riedel’s review of the Afghanistan war – at Obama’s invitation – changed the course of US engagement in the region. He argued, successfully, that to sort Afghanistan, the US must sort Pakistan too.
The former spymaster and a front ranking expert on South Asia has now written a book, inspired by the review he did for Obama, exploring America’s relationship with Pakistan.
“Indian pressure and US pressure as it has been since Mumbai has accomplished nothing,” Riedel said. Lashkar was named a terrorist organization by the US in 2001. It was banned by the United Nations – on a resolution moved by India – in 2005. But it pops up under a different name every time it’s banned. “Just the name on the door changes,” said Riedel.
It remains just as lethal. In fact, after years of targeting only India, it has begun to spread to outside the region – the plan to attack the Danish newspaper with the help of David Headley.
“We have not successfully broken the LeT or broken its links with the ISI,” Riedel said, adding, “We need a different approach.”
He suggests the US must draw “red lines” for Pakistan and its army.