Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Afsir Karim
AAKROSH. July 2012. Volume 15. Number 56
If Pakistan does not take strong measures against the fundamentalist forces and terror groups and their influence and power grows, it may lead to the collapse of the state. Presently, Pakistan army does not seem inclined to take action against the terror groups based in Punjab and Sind, hoping to appease them, but the hardliners among them seem in no mood to relent and attacks on government establishment continue in various parts of the country. A collapsing economy and continued political uncertainty are leading to a situation in which radical extremists are gaining influence all over the country, giving them hope to acquire more political power and eventually finding access to the nuclear weapons. Pakistan is paying a high price for nurturing and training terror groups, which are threatening its very existence as a nation state.
It is not clear whether Pakistan is allowing surprise attacks in eastern Afghanistan from its territory or is just a helpless spectator of the attacks being mounted by the Haqqani group across the borders to kill U.S. troops and Afghan forces. Most of these attacks are by car-borne suicide bombers who use well-rehearsed drills. They breach the perimeter security of the bases, and other insurgents waiting in the wings armed with suicide vests, rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns, and hand grenades storm the base. As attacks across the borders from Pakistan have killed and injured a large number of U.S.–NATO troops in the past few months, many U.S. commanders have considered launching joint U.S.–Afghan commando raids into Pakistan to hunt down the attackers. This idea according to U.S. officials comes up every couple of months but has been consistently rejected because chances of successfully rooting out the deadly Haqqani–al-Qaeda group are slim. On other hand, it will lead to an intense diplomatic blowback from Pakistan, inevitably creating more problems for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.1
Al-Qaeda–Haqqani terrorists have been targeted by U.S. drones successfully, but this group attacks targets in eastern Afghanistan from bases that are out of reach of drone attacks. Sending American and Afghan ground troops would be a violation of international laws and lead to serious escalation of tensions between the United States and Pakistan. The U.S. military and intelligence agencies have been urging the Pakistan army to attack the al-Qaeda–Haqqani group to hunt down the terrorists in their base areas, but the Pakistan army seems in no mood to oblige.
The United States is the only country that is actually attacking Pakistan-based terrorists at their bases, but these drone attacks are focused on those terrorist groups that are operating from the frontier areas and targeting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The other terrorist groups spread across the length and breadth of the country have remained unscathed. The drone attacks kill terrorist leaders but do not destroy their networks or their bases inside Pakistan, and the kind of war on terrorism by the United States in Pakistan has proved ineffective in dismantling terrorist organisations entrenched in Pakistan. Any plan to place boots in the frontier areas of Pakistan faces serious diplomatic and political hurdles in the United States that seem insurmountable in present political environments. The recent gesture by the U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, of offering apology for the inadvertent killing of 24 Pakistan soldiers by NATO helicopters in the frontier area and the subsequent opening of the supply routes to Afghanistan by Pakistan have cooled tempers on both sides, and there is no immediate possibility of the United States using any other means than drone attacks to root out terrorist groups operating from the frontier areas of Pakistan.2
After U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan pull out by 2014, the United States would want India to expand its role in the post-war stabilisation of the Af-Pak region, but this may not be possible as the aversion of Pakistan and the Taliban to the idea of an Indian military presence in Afghanistan remains very strong.3 The international community can, however, join forces to help in the stabilisation the Af-Pak region by helping the people to stand up and fight against the fundamentalist groups.
After the death of Osama bin Laden, there may have been disruption in the centralised control arrangements of al-Qaeda, but this has not affected its ability to plan and launch catastrophic terrorist strikes in Europe or the United States. Its affiliates, Terhrik e Taliban of Pakistan; the Haqqani Network; the LeT; al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen; al-Qaeda based in Algeria and Mali; al Shabaab of Somalia; and Boko Haram, of Nigeria, still retain their capability to attack targets and cause mass casualties.
The deportation of Abu Jundal (real name Zabiuddin Ansari) to India by Saudi Arabia opened a flood gate of information for Indian intelligence agencies as he was an important Indian link in the chain during the 26/11 LeT strike in Mumbai in 2008. He is reported to have revealed plans of LeT to resume terrorist strikes in India and the kind of network they have been able to set up within India for this purpose. Information of sleeper cells and those who are manning them has also been revealed by him, but the identity of the top LeT link in India and his counterpart in Pakistan is not yet known. LeT has been banned as a terrorist organisation by India, Pakistan, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Russia and Australia. Abu Jundal has made a startling revelation that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) continues to provide intelligence help and protection to LeT leaders despite the ban.
Once more, detailed information about organisations like the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Indian Mujahidin is available. Indian intelligence agencies may be able to penetrate and destroy links with the LeT network. It is important to break the liaison between the LeT and Indian radical groups considering the objectives and ideology of LeT, which pose a manifest danger to India.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE LET
The LeT follows the radical Wahhabi ideology, which advocates global jihad against all infidels and moderate Muslims. Although the primary area of operations of the LeT in India is Kashmir, its main aim is the destabilisation of India and it has not confined its disruptive activities only to Jammu and Kashmir. The LeT has repeatedly claimed through its journals and websites that its main aim is to destroy the Indian republic and to annihilate Hinduism and Judaism. The LeT has declared the Hindus and the Jews to be the “enemies of Islam” and India and Israel to be the “enemies of Pakistan.” The group has defined its objectives in its manifesto, which maintains that jihad must be waged to attain its objectives, these are described as under:
· Amin and supreme commander: Professor Hafiz Mohd Saeed, alias Tayazi
· Chief: Abdul Wahid Kashmiri
· Chief commander for J&K: Shahji of Bahawalpur, Punjab, Pakistan, appointed in place of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, alias Chachaji
· Chief operational commander: Abdullah Shahad, alias Abu Anas
· Chief of communication: Formerly Zarar Shah, now Shahji, entrusted with dual charge
· Chief finance manager: Haji Mohammed Ashraf
· Spokesperson: Abdul Muntazir, alias Abdullah Ghaznavi
· Central information secretary: Yahya Mujahid
ACTION COMMANDERS INDIA
· Abu Muzammil
· Azam Chima
· Abu Al Qama
· Abu Samas6
POLICY TOWARDS INDIA
Hafiz Saeed has been in the forefront of jihad against India and had declared in an interview in 1999 that “the jihad is not about Kashmir only . . . fifteen years ago, people might have found it ridiculous if someone told them about the disintegration of the USSR . . . today, I announce the breakup of India. Inshallah, we will not rest until the whole (of) India is dissolved into Pakistan.”
After the Mumbai 26/11 attack launched in 2008 by the LeT, it organised a joint meeting of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the LeT in Muzaffarabad (POK) in 2009, where it was declared that jihad was the only solution to the Kashmir conflict. Later, the LeT held a “Kashmir rally” in Lahore under a new name, Tanzeem-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir.8
The LeT poses a threat to the entire international community. It wants to “plant the flag of Islam in Washington, Tel Aviv, and New Delhi.”9 The LeT has intensified its global activities after the decentralisation of al-Qaeda. It cooperates with al-Qaeda and other militant groups in South Asia in recruiting drives, joint training programmes, tactical planning and financing for operations in Afghanistan.10 Senior al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah was captured in a LeT safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan, exposing the close links between the two organisations.11
The LeT has global ambitions and does not confine its activities only to South Asia. It has some unrealistic aims, like wanting to “plant the flag of Islam in Washington, Tel Aviv, and New Delhi.12 However, LeT operatives have been active in various in central, southeast and west Asian countries, providing assistance to terrorist groups in:
· Fundraising in the Middle East, Europe, Australia and the United States
· Procurement of weapons, explosives and communications systems for terrorist operations from the international arms markets
· The recruiting of volunteers for suicide missions
· The creation of sleeper cells for executing or supporting future terrorist acts in several parts of the world
· Fuelling armed conflicts in India, Afghanistan and Pakistan13
The LeT has established connections and ideological affiliations with many radical Sunni groups of the world. It provides financial and material support to these groups for mounting attacks on “enemies of Islam.” Intelligence reports suggest that the LeT has deployed its agents in several countries worldwide with the intention of supporting terror attacks on the “infidels.”14 Although the LeT helps terrorist organisations in many parts of the globe, its main focus is to assist terrorist operations in south Asia, which remains its primary theatre of war.
The LeT is presently the main instrument of the ISI and the Pakistani army for waging a shadow war in India. Though its main battle ground is J&K, its target areas include the Indian heartland, in particular, in Delhi and Mumbai. Its target of influence is the entire Muslim community in India, and the LeT has been able to create a large number of sleeper cells in collaboration with indigenous groups, such as SIMI and the Indian Mujahedeen (IM). Most terror attacks in 2007 in India’s heartland were traced to the LeT from support bases within India, showing its extended reach in significant segments of Indian Muslims.
Information obtained from Lashkar-sponsored terrorists in India points to a possibility of an arrangement between Maoists and the Lashkar to facilitate procurement of weapons and sharing of training facilities with the jihadi elements. A Kashmiri terrorist arrested in Delhi admitted that he had set up base in the Maoist stronghold of Hazaribagh in Jharkhand to coordinate matters with the Maoists. There are significant indicators of a nexus between the Maoists and jihadis affiliated with the LeT.
The Lashkar’s subversive activities in the Kashmir valley continue unabated, and it is reorganising and upgrading its facilities in POK to renew attacks on Kashmir. Till the early ‘90s, the Lashkar confined its activities to Kashmir, but later, it became a part of its policy to attack sensitive targets in the rest of India. The attack on the Red Fort in 2000, the strike on the Indian parliament in 2001 and the Mumbai attack in 2008 clearly showed the footprints of the Lashkar.
It seems there has been a strategic shift in Pakistani policies after 26/11 to move its facilities for mounting terrorist attacks to several countries of south Asia. To avoid serious international repercussions and retaliation from India, the Lashkar was tasked to penetrate Indian terrorist outfits and expanded its base of operations in India. Presently, the Lashkar is using lone-wolf attacks in crowded areas through local groups but is reported to be planning to launch bigger attacks on India from its bases outside Pakistan.
Things have been rather quiet in India on the surface, perhaps due to the process of relocation of bases, but the LeT is continuing recruitment, training and motivation of youth for terror strikes within India without let up. Selected groups are being trained to hit crowded areas in important towns, and specialised groups will be tasked to attack airports, transportation systems and vital installations.
India has long been targeted by violent extremist groups from Pakistan with the help of various local communal, separatist and secessionist groups. India is yet to counter the activities of these groups; various incidents suggest all the counterterrorist forces in the country are not on the same page because of the fault lines in our security system. The threat from terrorism emanates from a wide spectrum from various quarters, ranging from external to indigenous radical grups to organisations and local groups affiliated to the LeT. Some Muslim groups have resorted to terrorism because of perceived wrongs done to them by the majority communities.
Kashmir-related terrorist violence draws international concerns because of its possible links to transnational jihadi terrorists. Indian extremists have been roped in by Pakistan intelligence agencies to join the LeT to create an impression in international circles that the terrorism in India is a domestic affair for which Pakistan cannot be blamed. Indian nationals willing to join the jihad are being trained by LeT operatives in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives and Nepal. India has yet to take effective measures to break the link between local organisations and the LeT. A more serious challenge to India will emerge if the LeT is allowed to spread its influence in India unchecked or is able to coordinate its plans of attacking targets in India with indigenous and foreign groups in India’s neighbourhood.
The LeT will continue to target India because it considers it an anti-Islamic Hindu state against which jihad must be waged. Its aim is to harm India as much as possible by causing mass casualties and attacking sensitive defence and economic infrastructure. In Kashmir, it has the capability to execute terrorist attacks independently and with the support of the separatist groups.
There is an ever-increasing need to counter the designs and the activities of the LeT in India more vigorously right across the country. The 26/11 attacks in Mumbai showed the determination of the LeT to mount mass casualty attacks on India, and the information revealed by Abu Jundal has provided a glimpse of the local support available to it in India. In these circumstances, merely strengthening the apparatus of internal security and the anti-terror laws, revamping intelligence agencies and creating special anti-terror police forces will not do as all these are defensive measures that do no harm to the basic structure and organisation of the LeT within and outside India.
In India, there are a large number of sensitive assets spread across the country that require protection against terrorist attacks. India has to deploy a massive force in a static role, just waiting to thwart any terrorist attack. The LeT, with the help of an elaborate network in India, has the capability to pose a simultaneous threat to multiple targets. Post 26/11, the domestic environments within Pakistan have given a fillip to the growth of fundamentalists and there is a need to start an offensive to deal directly with the LeT and its affiliates wherever they are rather than hoping that Pakistan will rein them in.
The LeT and al-Qaeda have joined hands to pose a new threat to the United States and other Western nations, as evident from their joint plots to target airliners and the Olympic venue in London. Various attempts in Europe have focused the attention of the U.S. intelligence agencies on the activities of the LeT both in and outside south Asia. This may give an opportunity to India to combine its effort with the United States to target the LeT. The problem is that the LeT and its leaders are under the protective umbrella of the Pakistan army and it is not easy to target them. The LeT and affiliate groups are also operating from Nepal and Bangladesh, from where most targets in India are within striking range because of porous borders and sleeper cells located in India.
On a global level, the United States, its Western allies and the Jewish community are the main targets of the al-Qaeda–LeT combine. Most terrorist attacks carried out in the United States and Britain were planned in the LeT training facilities in Pakistan. The LeT is the main arm of al-Qaeda at the global level to attack U.S. assets and the countries that are U.S. allies.15
WAR AGAINST THE LET
With the United States having given a clear message to Pakistan to hand over all the terrorist leaders and deny bases to terrorist groups, it is time for India to forge a strategic alliance with the United States and help the United States attempt to contain terrorism in south Asia. The U.S. focus, however, is on those terrorist groups that are attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan. India must convince the United States to join India in its fight against those terrorist groups that are targeting India.
Pakistan is likely to remain in a denial mode and profess it does not shelter any terrorists in its territory, and the Pakistan army is no mood to give up its policy of using terrorism as a state policy. ISI help and protection to jihadi terrorism is continuing. Segments of Pakistani civil society against the ideology of jihadi terrorism are unable to challenge the radical groups or do not have the courage to become an instrument of fighting radical groups and their supporters.
Although India is in a position to organise covert forces to infiltrate inside Pakistan and damage the infrastructure of terrorist forces, it is reluctant to take any such step. As there is no viable military option open to India, it needs to adopt other means to combat terrorist forces of Pakistan. We need a strong political leadership with steely determination to sanction covert action to confront the terrorists in their home bases.
Some strategic thinkers believe India should wait till the inevitable self-destruction of Pakistan, which may take place sooner than later. In the meanwhile, the best course open to India is to start an all-out offensive against all the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist cells and support bases in India and neighbouring countries, like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. India has to give enough incentives to these countries to earn their cooperation. Above all else, India must liquidate all LeT cells operating with the help of domestic groups in India—without local support or bases, the LeT cannot operate in India. To eliminate local support now available to the LeT, certain political initiatives to win over the disgruntled segments of our population must be taken expeditiously.
Notes and References
1. Frontier Post. “US Mulling Joint Raids with Afghans on Pakistan.” 23 June 2012. <http://www.thefrontierpost.com/article/167993/>.
2. Bruce Riedel (with Jayshree Bajoria). “US Options Limited in Pakistan.” Council on Foreign Relations, 11 May 2010. <www.cfr.org/pakistan/us-options-limited-pakistan/p22099>.
3. Rama Lakshmi. “India Seeks Larger Role in Stabilizing Afghanistan After NATO Drawdown.” Asia and Pacific, 28 June 2012. .
4. Wikipedia. Lashkar-e-Taiba. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lashkar-e-Taiba>.
7. Hafiz Saeed, quoted in Nida-e-Millat, 18 August 2004; as cited in “Jihadi Groups: Alive and Killing,” Hindu, 29 August 2004.
8. BBC News. “Banned Pakistan Militants Gather.” 4 February 2009, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7869697.stm>; John, n. 1.
9. S. Tephen Tankel. “Lashkar-e-Taiba: From 9/11 to Mumbai.” The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, April/May 2009. <http://www.icsr.info/news/attachments/1240846916ICSRTankelReport.pdf>. <http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-andMatrix/archives/2010/03/lashkaretaiba_bad_company.php>.
10. Op cit not n.6.
15. South Asia Terrorism Portal. “Lashkar-e-Toiba; Army of the Pure.” <www.satp.org/tracking/Goto.asp?ID=18>; Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI). “What Is Lashkar-e-Taiba?” <http://www.ps.au.dk/fileadmin/site_files/filer_statskundskab/subsites/cir/pdf-filer/what_is_lashkar_taiba_01.pdf>.