Mumbai attacks show Pakistan has lost control of jihadists: US expert

By Arun Kumar,IANS,

Washington : The November attack on Mumbai by Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has underlined that Islamabad has lost control of its jihadists, a leading US security analyst says.

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“The Mumbai attacks also underlined how little things had really changed inside Pakistan’s jihadi culture since 9/11,” Peter Bergen Schwartz, CNN’s national security analyst, told a Congressional panel.

“The group that carried out the attacks, Lashkar-e-Taiba, had been officially banned in January 2002, but that did not prevent it from organising the 60-hour attack on Mumbai, much of it carried live by news channels around the world, a series of assaults that was often described as ‘India’s 9/11’,” he said.

“The Mumbai attack underlined the fact that Pakistan had lost control of its jihadists who sought to undermine the creeping rapprochement between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue,” Schwartz said at a hearing on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Another witness, Paul R. Pillar, a 28-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said LeT has an “undeniable link” with the Pakistan government that “saw it as a useful tool, particularly with regard to confronting the Indians in Kashmir and keeping an insurgency in Kashmir brewing”.

“LeT, is an Islamist Pakistani group that has gotten, certainly in the past – and there’s a question about how much it still has in the present – cooperation and sponsorship from elements of the Pakistani government itself,” he said.

“The official sponsorship is no longer there. The remaining question is to what degree there may be individuals or elements-particularly in the Pakistani military-that may have some continued relationship with the group,” said Pillar, currently visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies.

Noting that the “US interest in counter-terrorism goes beyond preventing reinstitution of a Taliban regime in Afghanistan”, Pillar said: “Closely related is US interest in maintaining peace and stability in the relationship between Pakistan and India.”

“The continued rivalry, despite easing of tensions in recent years, between these two South Asian powers that have fought several wars may still present one of the greatest risks anywhere of nuclear weapons being used in combat,” he said.

“Given the preoccupation of both countries with the conflict between them, anything that involves Pakistan necessarily also involves the Indo-Pakistani rivalry,” Pillar said.