26-11 Attacks Show Growing Ability Of LeT: US Intelligence Official

11 March 2009
The Times of India

Washington DC: The Mumbai carnage shows the growing striking capabilities of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its ability to direct and execute terror attacks inside India, a senior US intelligence official said on Wednesday. 'In South Asia , the November 2008 attack in Mumbai highlighted the increasing ability of terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to direct and execute terrorist attacks inside India,' Lt. General Michael Maples, Director, Defence Intelligence Agency of the US Army said in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Besides raising Indo-Pak tensions, the targeting of foreign nationals and Jewish interests, as well as the coordination and complexity of the operation, marked a departure from previous attacks and raised concerns in the region, Maples said. The statement comes a day after the State Department said Pakistan needs to do more in bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack to justice. In his remarks during the hearing Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, said LeT is essentially a creature of ISI to conduct operations in Kashmir. 'So its relationship to the Pakistan intelligence service is very disturbing,' Reid said. 'It (LeT) conducted the operations in Mumbai, but some have suggested that it poses a much, much broader threat, because of its ability to operate fairly openly in Pakistan because of its connections to many Pakistani nationals who reside outside of Pakistan in Europe and even in the United States,' Reid said. Agreed Dennis Blair, National Intelligence Director, who also testified before the Senate Committee. 'Its long ties as being a means to hit India over the Kashmir issue give it strong roots. The ISI or Pakistan government has changed its policy towards Lashkar-e-Taiba partially, but it has not become a force for good in Pakistan or in the region,' Blair said. 'I don't assess that it is replacing al-Qaeda as a worldwide terrorist directed against Western American interests or shares the al-Qaeda messianic ideology of a greater pan Islamic state and driving the conservative Muslim governments from power,' Blair observed. 'I think it's much more directed than that, but it certainly has the capability and can still carry out acts which are against American interests,' he said. Responding to Senator Reed's queries, Maples said: Saeed, who's the leader of LeT, does have a belief in the establishment of fundamentalist Islamic states and it has been very involved in Afghanistan with that as an intended purpose. 'So and while there is still the focus on Kashmir, a focus on India, there's also a focus in the other region and - and I think that that fundamentalism is an issue that makes LeT a real concern to us because I think they - they do have ambitions beyond that,' Maples said. 'I don't know that they have reached the level of another al-Qaeda or replacement for Al-Qaeda but I think that beliefs are very similar in nature. I'd also believe that the Pakistani government, as the Director (Blair) has said, has distanced themselves from LeT in a statement - some very significant actions in the recent past towards the organisation,' he said. Responding to another question from Senator McCaskill, Blair said the action after the Mumbai bombing, in particular, has been greater from Pakistan's point of view than many previous ones. 'As you know, leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba were arrested, and Pakistan has undertaken to prosecute them. It has asked for India to provide the evidence that could be used in such a prosecution. The United States is involved in trying to work with both sides in order to - in order to make that happen,' he said. 'So, I think that particular trend is positive, but it has a ways to go and it's not a simple progress,' Blair said. Maples said India continues to be on top concern of Pakistani leadership. ‘Swat agreement unnerving’ Coming out openly against the recent agreement between the Taliban and NWFP government in the picturesque Swat Valley of Pakistan, a top intelligence official on Wednesday said this has been unnerving the US. 'It is also unnerving to us from the standpoint of what that means to other militants in the region,' Lt. General Michael Maples, Director, Defence Intelligence Agency of the US Army said while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Maples was responding to a question asked by Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina. The Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency said the Swat agreement has been a issue of concern for the US. 'We are very concerned about that,' he said. 'I believe it is at least initially was a belief that he could reduce violence by giving into that. The reality is it hasn't changed the activities of the militants,' he said. 'As a matter of fact to me it is a very disturbing event that could really send the wrong signal to the wrong people at the wrong time,' Senator Graham said, to which Maples responded by saying 'absolutely.' Earlier in his testimony, Maples said: 'In the Swat Valley, a 'settled' district of the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), the government recently agreed to militant demands to impose Shari'a law in the district, a move that could embolden militant organizations in other parts of the country.'