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Lashkar-e-Tayyiba: al Qaeda for the Next Generation

The curious case of David Coleman Headley got me looking into whether something else might be afoot in the shadows. If you are unfamiliar with Headley, he is the US citizen who recently plead guilty to having a role in the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. Apparently his guilty plea also included his having a role in the plot to kill people at a Danish newspaper. According to the Christian Science Monitor's March 18, 2010 article, David Headley pleads guilty in 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack:

David Coleman Headley, a US citizen, could have been sentenced to death by lethal injection for his alleged involvement in the India attacks that left more than 164 dead, including six Americans. But with his guilty plea, prosecutors have agreed not to seek the death penalty or to extradite him to India, Pakistan, or Denmark.

The agreement, announced in federal court in Chicago, is contingent on Mr. Headley’s full cooperation with US intelligence officials and prosecutors. Under sentencing guidelines he could receive a prison term of up to life in prison. But his prison time could be reduced based on the value of his cooperation.

Headley’s plea agreement says he’s been cooperating with US officials since his arrest in October 2009, and that he has already provided “substantial assistance.”

“Not only has the criminal justice system achieved a guilty plea in this case, but David Headley is now providing us valuable intelligence about terrorist activities,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. “As this case demonstrates, we must continue to use every tool available to defeat terrorism both at home and abroad.”

Headley was among four men named in a 12-count indictment returned by a Chicago grand jury in January for involvement in two plots: the 2008 Mumbai attack, and a separate plot to murder an editor and an illustrator at a Danish newspaper.

...

Headley’s plea agreement reveals new details about the alleged plot. It says a Pakistan-based militant leader with ties to Al-Qaeda suggested that Europe-based operatives could provide manpower for a suicide attack on the newspaper offices.

The leader said once inside the building the attackers should behead newspaper employees and throw their severed heads out the building[colorful] “to heighten the response from Danish authorities.”

According to information in the 33-page indictment, Headley agreed to provide surveillance for the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (Army of the Good). The group has long battled India over claims to the disputed territories of Jammu and Kashmir.

Early on, there were reports about the Mumbai terrorist attacks which indicated they were not the work of crazed religious zealots. For example, the BBC reported:

Locals say the orgy of killings in Mumbai began here. Three men walked into the cafe, drank beer, settled their bills and walked out. Then they fished out guns from their bags and began firing.

Gaffar Abdul Amir, an Iraqi tourist from Baghdad, says he saw at least two men who started the firing outside the Leopold Cafe.

He was returning to his hotel from the seaside with a friend when he saw two men carrying bags and brandishing AK-47s walking in front of them, shooting.

"They did not look Indian, they looked foreign. One of them, I thought, had blonde hair. The other had a punkish hairstyle. They were neatly dressed," says Mr Amir.

Worthy of note is that Henry Kissinger had been at the scene of the crime three days before it took place:

Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline a natural thing to do: Kissinger

http://www.thehindu.com/fline/fl2611/images/20090605261107602.jpg
Tehran Times

NEW DELHI (IRNA) -- The former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has indicated his support for the proposed Iran-Pakistan- India (IPI) gas pipeline which the Bush administration had objected to.

Speaking on "American Foreign Policy After Elections," organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Aspen Institute India in Mumbai, Thursday, Kissinger, answering a query on the multi-billion project, initially said he had no knowledge about every problem in the world, The Hindu reported here Friday.

Later, however, he said, "The pipeline will be a natural thing to do".

He said he had always advocated negotiation with Iran.

"I expect the new administration [to be headed by Obama] to begin discussions with Iran." To a query on the energy problem, Kissinger said the urgency of the problem had lessened due to recession.

But he felt there would be competition for available energy and countries like China, India and the US should form an organization that should address the issue of allocation.

There may or may not be a connection between Kissinger's mission and the terrorist attacks. But it's enough to make me take notice.

In his Dec 2, 2008 article More evidence of CIA-backed syndicate involvement in Mumbai attacks, Wayne Madsen tells us that: Under pressure from Washington, this past May Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani cut a secret deal with the United States and India to turn over to Delhi a number of residents of Pakistan wanted by India for terrorism. One of those included in the deal was the CIA’s erstwhile asset, Mumbai-born Dawood Ibrahim, a veteran of CIA operations in Afghanistan during the mujahedin war against the Soviets.

While looking into the case of David Headley I happened upon an article, LeT ISI baby: Experts to US Congress, 13 Mar 2010, in the Indian Economic Times which reports" There is a growing feeling in the US that despite the best efforts of the Obama administration, Pakistan’s semi-rogue spy agency, the
ISI, continues to maintain links with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Many US scholars and south Asia experts plainly told US lawmakers that ISI patronage helped the terror outfit to unleash mayhem in Mumbai. The article cites statement by various "authorities" including Gary L Ackerman, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia of the House Committee on International Relations, and Marvin G Weinbaum from the Middle East Institute. I decided to look into what these men were saying about LeT.

First we have Dr. Weinbaum:

http://www.internationalrelations.house.gov/111/wei031110.pdf
Testimony of Dr. Marvin G. Weinbaum, Scholar-in-Residence,
Middle East Institute on “Bad Company: Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and the
Growing Ambition of Islamist Militancy in Pakistan”
Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia,
House Committee on Foreign Affairs
March 11, 2010

Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), the Army of the Righteous, has
evolved from being a government-sponsored Pakistani jihadi group
dedicated to an insurgency in Indian Kashmir into a terrorist
organization with regional and global ambitions and reach. In the
U.S.’s focus on homeland security and al Qaeda it has failed to take
into full account of the presence of other organizations capable of
surpassing or replacing al Qaeda as a terrorist threat worldwide. LeT is
probably the leading candidate for such a role. LeT is the largest
militant network in Pakistan. It exceeds al Qaeda in its capacity for
recruiting and fundraising across the Islamic world. Unlike al Qaeda,
LeT has strong societal roots, and enjoys the protection of the
institutions of a state.

LeT is determined to use violent means to inflict damage on
American and Western interests internationally. Its leaders seek the
creation of a purer Islamic state whose beliefs closely resemble
Wahabism, a Sunni branch of Islam that subscribes to a literal
interpretation of the Koran. But despite its transnational views that
envision the reemergence of a caliphate across the Islamic world, the
organization champions militant Pakistani nationalism and thrives on
its association with domestic charitable activities.

LeT As a Domestic Organization

LeT was originally the offspring of Markaz-al-Dawa-wal-Irshad
(MDI), a service organization founded at Muridke near Lahore in the
early 1980s by a Palestinian, Abduallah Azzam, who was for a time an
ideological mentor of Osama bin Laden.

...

LeT receives its main funding from multiple sources. It raises
money from mosque collections, expatriate Pakistanis in the Gulf and
Britain, Islamic NGOs, and Pakistani and Kashmiri businessmen. Like
other extremist and militant organizations, money from drugs and
smuggling also undoubtedly enter its coffers.
There are suspicions that
LeT receives financial assistance from Pakistan military’s Inter-
Services Intelligence agency (ISI).

Money from drugs? Do we have a turf war going on here?

Then we have:

http://ackerman.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=194&itemid=967

Ackerman Statement: While U.S. attention has focused primarily on al-Qaida, and the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, the Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT) and other violent, Islamist extremist groups in Pakistan have been growing in both capability and ambition. As was demonstrated in the horrific Mumbai attack of November 2008, the al-Qaida model of perpetrating highly visible, mass-casualty attacks appears to have migrated, with enormous potential consequences for the United States.

With a team of 10 well-armed terrorists, a carefully coordinated plan of attack, and a team of controllers back in Pakistan in constant communication with the terrorist attack team, the LeT in three days killed 173 innocent people, wounded 308 others, and grabbed hold of the entire world’s attention. Communications intercepts that have been made public by the Government of India include an attack controller boasting about the carnage in Mumbai, “This is just the trailer. The main movie is yet to come.”

We need to take this threat very, very seriously. The LeT is a deadly serious group of fanatics. They are well financed, ambitious, and most disturbingly, both tolerated by, and connected to, the Pakistani military.

The same Pakistani military to which we are selling advanced arms. The same Pakistani military that objected so bitterly to legislation this Congress passed to provide a massive $7.5 billion plus-up in American assistance to their country, Pakistan, because our accompanying language suggests that Pakistan’s military should be answerable to a democratically elected government.

Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, which means “the army of the righteous” or “the army of the pure” was set up with help from the Pakistani military as a proxy weapon for use in Jammu and Kashmir, parts of India that Pakistan has contested since partition in 1947. After 9/11, Pakistan officially banned the LeT, but the reality is that like other Islamist terrorist groups, LeT maintains a clear public presence—and a vast recruiting network—by providing extremely useful charitable and social services to millions of impoverished people of Pakistan. Public estimates suggest LeT operates some 2,000 offices in towns and villages throughout Pakistan, as well as maintaining ties with the Pakistani military.

There is, in fact, no reason to doubt that Pakistan’s military is likely paying compensation to the families of the terrorists killed in the Mumbai attacks. These are our allies in the war on terror.

Operational funding for the LeT comes from charitable fund-raising amongst the general population in Pakistan, but also depends heavily on contributions by Pakistani businessmen living abroad and other wealthy individuals from the Persian Gulf. Let us note too, these states are also our allies in the war on terror.

But it would be unfair and wrong to suggest that the LeT problem is strictly confined to Pakistan and the Middle East. In fact, one of the key facilitators of the Mumbai attack was an American of Pakistani extraction. Unfortunately, the LeT enjoys a substantial global network stretching from the Philippines to the United Kingdom.

There is a temptation to think that the LeT is really India’s problem; that the LeT is really just interested in the so-called “liberation” of Jammu and Kashmir. While it’s true that the primary area of operations for the LeT has historically been the Kashmir valley and the Jammu region, the LeT has also undertaken repeated and numerous mass casualty attacks throughout India and, in particular, directed at the Indian government. But the idea that this group can be appeased on the subject of Kashmir is dangerous nonsense.

The LeT's true goal is not Kashmir, it is India. And the LeT is not shy about announcing that its intention is to establish an Islamic state in all of South Asia. Neither does it hide or try to play down its declaration of war against all Hindus and Jews, who they insist are “enemies of Islam.”
In the wake of the Mumbai attack, investigators uncovered in computer records and email accounts a list of 320 locations worldwide deemed by the LeT as possible targets for attack. Only 20 of the targets were locations within India.

The LeT has been attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan almost from day one and their forces are present throughout Afghanistan. The LeT has been slaughtering Indians by the score for decades. The LeT has put the world on notice that they intend to escalate the carnage and spread it world-wide.

This group of savages needs to be crushed. Not in a month. Not in a year. Not when the situation stabilizes in Afghanistan. Not when things are under control in Pakistan. Now. Today and everyday going forward. We’re not doing it, and we’re not effectively leading a global effort to do it. And we’re going to regret this mistake. We’re going to regret it bitterly.

Since I am convinced that al Qaeda had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, any comparison with them is suspect in my mind. So, LeT is bigger, badder, meaner, and harder to spell than al Qaeda, AND they are in the way of building a pipeline, uh, I mean operating right next to Afghanistan. They certainly have a global reach since we had them living right in Obama's back yard.

My take is that we have a new al Qaeda for the next generation. Are you terrified yet? I am, but not of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, however you spell it.