Here’s a new brand name the next U.S. president will have to try and wrap his tongue around: Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Not only did LeT apparently train the Mumbai attackers, but, according to a United Nations document scooped by McClatchy, the group has “sent operatives to attack U.S. troops in Iraq, established a branch in Saudi Arabia and been raising funds in Europe”.
The group may also have received money from al Qaida, suggesting that it has close ties with Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network based along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, the document said.
Although Pakistan’s government outlawed LeT in May 2002, it ‘continues to operate and engage in or support terrorist activities abroad,’ the document said.
What makes the Let truly dangerous, writes Raja Karthikeya, is its “resilience and mutability”:
Most terrorist groups do not survive ten years of operation. Lashkar has only grown stronger in its fourteen or so years of existence, despite bans by the US and Pakistan and the pressure on terrorist groups after 9/11. It has successfully adapted itself to the changing political environment in Pakistan (from democracy to dictatorship to democracy) and transformed itself from a largely militant organization to one with extensive philanthropic activities, without losing its capacity to commit terrorist acts outside Pakistan. It has attracted young, urban professionals and enjoys wide support within its constituency.
It has shed the lure of branding just like al-Qaeda and operates under a number of aliases. Its not-so-clandestine charity front and the charity’s vigorous work in post-disaster relief operations have helped it raise millions of rupees which will help it survive international crackdowns. The Mumbai attacks testify to its intelligence gathering and planning capabilities in a hostile environment. Specific tactical details of the standoffs in Mumbai, (such as the blowing up of an elevator in order to take cover inside the elevator shaft) indicate the level of professionalism its cadres have achieved. The very modus operandi of the attack (an amphibious landing) could rank it alongside the Tamil Tigers in terms of innovation.
Last but not least, Lashkar’s leadership is ambitious. Even if their agenda has been impacted by al-Qaeda, they aspire to achieve the status of ‘liberators’ and will not be content to play second fiddle to any larger group. Thus, we must be prepared for more attacks from this group. Mumbai’s tragedy may just have changed the game.