A statement released by Afghan President Hamid Karzai earlier today accused the Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba and an unnamed “foreign country” of executing the June 6 attack that targeted presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah. The suicide attack killed at least 12 people, including seven civilians and five security personnel. From Reuters:
“Initial investigation indicates that an intelligence agency of a foreign country and LeT have been involved,” said a statement from Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s office after he chaired a security council meeting at the presidential palace on Sunday.
“The terrorists of this group are after disrupting the Afghan presidential election.”
The ministers of the security sector briefed the meeting on the attack against Abdullah.
The “intelligence agency of a foreign country” is of course a reference to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, which has supported terrorist operations in Afghanistan in the past.
If the attack on Abdullah was indeed executed by the Lashkar-e-Taiba, then it would have done so with the aid of what ISAF used to call the Kabul Attack Network. This network is made up of fighters from the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and cooperates with terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda. Top Afghan intelligence officials have linked the Kabul Attack Network to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate as well. The network’s tentacles extend outward from Kabul into the surrounding provinces of Logar, Wardak, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Kunar, Ghazni, and Zabul, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
Background on the Lashkar-e-Taiba
The 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.
Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters have fought alongside al Qaeda and the Taliban in multiple engagements against US and Afghan forces in the east, including the deadly assault on the US combat outpost in Wanat in Nuristan province 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.
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-Taiba 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, which is backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and the military, and sheltered by the government, 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 and with the help of the Pakistani establishment, 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 has “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 Wahhabism, the radical Islamist school of thought born in Saudi Arabia.
Lashkar-e-Taiba has an extensive network in southern and southeast Asia. After the Mumbai terror assault in November 2008 that killed 165 people, 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 has conducted business as usual.
Hafiz Saeed, the emir of Lashkar-e-Taiba, and several other leaders have been added to the US’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. In May 2012, the US added Saeed to the Rewards for Justice program, and offered $10 million for information leading to his arrest and prosecution. Saeed continues to operate openly Pakistan, and is often feted by Pakistani politicians and the media.