LeT plays major role in providing recruits, funding to Taliban: UN report
Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) plays a key role in providing recruits and funding to the Taliban and other terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, according to a new United Nations report.
The LeT, which was founded by Hafiz Saeed and has an extensive network of camps, madrassas and other facilities in Pakistan that are operated by front organisations such as Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), has often been accused by Afghan and US officials of targeting foreign forces in Afghanistan.
A report submitted by the UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team to the 1988 Sanctions Committee, which oversees sanctions on the Taliban, said LeT “continues to act as a key facilitator in recruitment and financial support activities” in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, which is a “focal area for foreign terrorist fighters”.
The report quoted Afghan officials as saying that some 500 LeT fighters are active in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces alone. This is significantly higher than an estimate in a report by the Pentagon last month that LeT has about 300 fighters operating across Afghanistan.
The LeT “reportedly tried to manage relations between the Taliban and ISIL (Islamic State) and establish some kind of truce, but more recently it has distanced itself from ISIL and has played a more neutral role”, the UN report said.
Of the 8,000 to 10,000 foreign terrorists in Afghanistan, most are from Pakistan, including the erstwhile tribal agencies of Mohmand, Bajaur, Orakzai and South and North Waziristan, the report added.
More details about the LeT’s recruitment and fund-raising activities had emerged in another report submitted by the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team in May 2018. That report had said the LeT had “connections and cordial relations with the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, the Haqqani Network and ISIL simultaneously”.
“One Afghan interlocutor indicated that (LeT) played a key role in facilitating recruitment from a network of unregistered madrasas inside Pakistan. Upon departure from madrasas, fighters proceeded to Afghanistan, where they joined existing militant groups,” the report of May 2018 had said.
“It was reported to the Monitoring Team that many ISIL fighters in Kunar and Nangarhar had originally been affiliated with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, while another group of mixed Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad fighters located in the Dangam district of Kunar were under Taliban control...,” it had added.
The latest UN report, circulated among UN Security Council members in mid-June, said that besides the LeT, the Taliban cooperated and had strong links with al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, the Haqqani Network, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, and nearly 20 other regionally and globally focused groups.
“In return for safe havens and the ability to pursue their own business, foreign fighters continue to operate under the authority of the Taliban in multiple Afghan provinces at undiminished levels,” the report said.
These findings come against the backdrop of reports that the US and the Taliban have reached some sort of understanding on the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for the Tailiban providing a guarantee that Afghan soil won’t be used by terrorists.
“The Taliban continues to enjoy support and endorsement from Al-Qaida in Afghanistan and it remains to be seen whether they will be willing to give this up in favour of progressing peace talks,” the UN report said.
The report also provided details of links between terror groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It said al-Qaeda has “grown stronger operating under the Taliban umbrella across Afghanistan and is more active than in recent years”, and “has been intensifying its concentration in the Afghan-Pakistan border area in close cooperation with Lashkar-e Tayyiba and the Haqqani Network”.
A majority of leaders and members of Islamic State in Afghanistan are “historically linked to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan”, the report said.