Banner of the Jamaat-ud Dawa, the front group for the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
A combined Coalition and Afghan force detained a Taliban commander who is linked to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, or Army of the Pure, during a raid in eastern Afghanistan last night.
The Taliban commander, who was not named, was detained along with a Taliban facilitator and two fighters during a raid in the eastern province of Nangarhar, the International Security Assistance Force reported in a press release.
“The commander is directly linked to the Taliban emir of Khogyani district and assisted with the recent influx of Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT) insurgents into the province,” ISAF stated.
Lashkar-e-Taiba has been linked to numerous complex attacks in eastern Afghanistan and in Kabul. Its fighters are believed to have worked with the Haqqani Network, run by Siraj Haqqani, to carry out attacks on Indian targets in Kabul, including two this year.
Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters have fought alongside al Qaeda and Taliban in multiple engagements against US and Afghan forces in the east, including the assault on the US combat outpost in Wanat in Nuristan province, Afghanistan, in July 2008. More than 400 enemy fighters launched the coordinated attack. In the fierce fighting at Wanat, nine US troops were killed, 15 US soldiers and four Afghan troops were wounded, and the post was nearly overrun. Although US forces ultimately defeated the attack, they withdrew from the outpost days later.
Lashkar-e-Taiba is thought to have a presence in several of Afghanistan’s eastern provinces, including, Kunar, Nuristan, Nangarhar, Laghman, Paktia, Paktika, Khost, and Kabul.
The terror group is known to have run training camps in Kunar and Paktia provinces up until the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Lashkar-e-Taiban also currently operates camps in Pakistan in Mansehra, Sindh, Punjab, and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Pakistan’s military and its Inter-Services Intelligence directorate support Lashkar-e-Taiba as part of Pakistan’s so-called strategic depth against rival India.
The terror group essentially runs a state within a state in Pakistan. The sprawling Muridke complex in Punjab houses “a Madrassa (seminary), a hospital, a market, a large residential area for ‘scholars’ and faculty members, a fish farm and agricultural tracts. The LeT also reportedly operates 16 Islamic institutions, 135 secondary schools, an ambulance service, mobile clinics, blood banks and several seminaries across Pakistan,” the Southeast Asia Terrorism Portal reported.
Over a period of years, the Lashkar-e-Taiba has established an organization that rivals Lebanese Hezbollah. The group succeeded in providing aid to earthquake-ravaged regions in Kashmir in 2005 while the Pakistani government was slow to act. Lashkar-e-Taiba is active in fundraising across the Middle East and South Asia, and has recruited scores of Westerners to train in its camps. The most well-known Western recruit is David Coleman Headley, an American citizen who helped scout the deadly November 2008 Mumbai terror assault and also plotted attacks in Europe.
Like al Qaeda, the Lashkar-e-Taiba seeks to establish a Muslim caliphate in southern and central Asia. Lashkar-e-Taiba “consistently advocated the use of force and vowed that it would plant the ‘flag of Islam’ in Washington, Tel Aviv and New Delhi,” according to the Southeast Asia Terrorism Portal. Also, like al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba practices Wahabism, the radical Islamist school of thought born in Saudi Arabia.
Lashkar-e-Taiba has an extensive network in southern and southeast Asia. A senior US military intelligence official described the group as “al Qaeda junior,” as it has vast resources and is able to carry out complex attacks throughout its area of operations. “If by some stroke of luck al Qaeda collapsed, LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) could step in and essentially take its place,” the official told The Long War Journal in November 2008.
The relationship between al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba is complex, the official noted. “While Lashkar-e-Taiba is definitely subordinate to al Qaeda in many ways, it runs its own network and has its own command structure. The groups often train in each others’ camps, and fight side by side in Afghanistan.”
The US government designated Lashkar-e-Taiba as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in December 2001. The Pakistani government banned the group in January 2002, but this did little to shut down its operations. The group renamed itself the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and conducted business as usual.