Lashkar-e-Taiba: Bad company

Below is a statement from Representative Gary Ackerman, the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, which was delivered at the opening of a hearing on the the threat of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. Rep. Ackerman notes LeT’s global reach and aspirations, and questions the US support for Pakistan and the billions of dollars in aid sent to the country even as it continues to back the LeT.

“Bad Company: Lashkar e-Tayyiba and the Growing Ambition of Islamist

Militancy in Pakistan”

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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Jimmy says:

    Thank you, Bill, for this excellent article. Finally knowledge about the monster that is LeT has dawned upon the US. India has been crying hoarce about this threat for 20 years now.
    Actually, Indians have come to believe the US as being very selective (to the point of being selfish) in dealing with Pakistan Army-ISI-Jihadi groups nexus. Instead of asking India to maintain calm on Pakistans eastern front, US, NATO and India should corner Pakistan on all sides and force them to act against all Jihadi groups. Otherwise, its business as usual for Pakistan with US giving billions of dollars of aid and weapons for some eyewash of a support on the war on terror.
    Bill, let me ask you…what has NATO achieved in Afghanistan vis-a-vis AlQueda or Taliban in the last 9 years and after billions of dollars to Pakistan? Nothing really! Why can’t NATO and India get toghether and squeeze Pakistan monetarily, militarily to stop it from harming the world? All this talk of helping Pakistanis in education and gaining their support and helping them stand on their own feet is nonsence. India has learnt the hard way that no amount of peaceful gestures is now going to turn around Pakistan from the path of violent Jihad. It has gone too far…just like Nazi Germany.
    Pakistan paints dreamy pictures for visiting US dignitaries and the US believes whatever cock-and-bull story Pakistan cooks up. Its time for re-enacting Ronald Reagan who clearly said that the Soviet Union was an “Evil Empire” and he used all his presidency to see that it was crushed. Similarly, we need to crush the Troika between Pak Army-ISI-Jihadi groups…economically, diplomaticaly, covertly and if need be militarily.

  • STEVE M says:


  • Jaydev says:

    There is a rumor among circles that a back-up India-US plan is in place if Pak stalls completely all action against home-grown terrorists. It is to dismember it. But it is sort of Plan C. Stephen Cohen have publicly stated that, it will be last resort if Pak does not comply. US already uses Balochi support for gathering intelligence on Taliban/Al-Qaeda in Balochistan.
    If and when push-comes-to-shove..India and US +other allies like Oman will link up and start massive covert operations to destabilize Pakistan

  • KW64 says:

    I see no alternative to the current democratically elected government of Pakistan that is at all attractive. Neither the US or India what to occupy Pakistan and the internal entities that might succeed it are either Islamist leaning or a return to military rule.
    We may not be getting everything we want out of Pakistan but it is better than nothing and much better than Nawaz Sheriff would likely prove to be.

  • jayant says:

    When AQ – bin laden and the bunch fought the soviets americans said – great job and did not think it would have its come back.
    when pakistan was creating taliban and filling its rank with ‘on leave’ pakistani and isi officers to take over afganistan, it said how does it bother us.
    when pakistan steadily created, built, trained, armed, led LET, Jaish and the rest Americans said it is india’s problem how does it bother us
    now when it focusses on pakistan army to deliver whatever little it can for americans do a face saved exit of from afganistan it is saying how does what is going to continue in the region bother us
    well many of it came back to you and lot more it is still going to come back to you
    this is guaranteed

  • A glaring omission in this hearing is Saudi Arabia’s involvement in funding and sponsoring Lashkar-e-Taiba.
    People have to understand (much details in my book) that Saudi Arabia is deeply involved in an armed jihad directed at unbelievers.
    Pakistan can’t, and should not, be seen as a sovereign state. It is, as data shows, the nuclear-armed jihadist sword arm of the Saudis.
    Here are a couple of links (from my book):
    “LeT has an extensive network that run across Pakistan and India with branches in Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Bangladesh and South East Asia.
    The outfit collects donations from the Pakistani community in the Persian Gulf and United Kingdom, Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations, and Pakistani and Kashmiri businessmen. It receives considerable financial, material and other forms of assistance from the Pakistan government, routed primarily through the ISI. The ISI is the main source of LeT’s funding. Saudi Arabia also provides funds.”
    Another independent one:
    “The Mumbai attacks have been linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba and radical Islamic groups in Kashmir generally. Yet it would be a mistake to see Lashkar only as a local organization with only a local agenda.
    Saudi Arabia has contributed very much to what Lashkar-e-Taiba looks like, how it thinks, its motivation, ideology, and funding. Saudi Arabia presents itself as the protector and the spearhead of the defense of Muslims around the world against what they define as the Western cultural attack.
    Since the beginning of the 1990s, Saudi Arabia has contributed very much to what Lashkar-e-Taiba looks like, how it thinks, its motivation, ideology, and funding. Saudi newspapers at the time published calls for jihad to support all Muslim struggles around the world. Kashmir was seen as a place where jihad was taking place, so donations were solicited for the Muslims living there. Allah was said to bless the warriors of this financial jihad.
    In August 1999, the Saudi newspaper Al Jazeera reported on a press conference conducted by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi-based charity supervised by the government. The group’s secretary-general, Maneh al-Johani, praised the role played by Saudi Arabia in providing assistance to Muslims around the world, especially in Kashmir. Johani equated the Kashmir issue with the situation in Kosovo and Palestine, and called on Muslims to help the Kashmiri people.”

  • Render says:

    Jaydev – I’ve already posted just such a dismemberment rumor/option in comments here on LWJ. It falls under the heading of, “the next logical strategic step.”

  • jayant says:

    How come we have not read much in lwj about the saudi role in all this militancy growing.
    If i am not wrong, saudi was involved in financing the entire taliban creation project of the ISI in 90s, wasn’t it?
    would really like to read more about the saudi angle in it all.

  • T Ruth says:

    This is what i love about this site. Bill sets the pace and the commentors round it off. And then when you stack all this up with what comes out of the White House you realise that Washington is a pretty sleepy place.
    I say to Mr Ackerman, well said….but why does it take so long to get there? The opinion makers seem to congregate here. Finally after months, if not years of delay, Washington comes with something that’s half-baked. I mean, really, after all the prevarication whats great about the Big Decisions that Obama’s made that will make a difference in Afghanistan and Pakistan? To me they were obvious and anything but bold. What was completely not obvious, even less so great, was to signal the exit from Afghanistan. Perfect encouragement to LeT and those who support them, incl the Pak army/ISI combine to continue with their global jihad.
    Don’t they lead from the front in DC anymore?

  • Abheek says:

    Inspite of the role that SA plays in fomenting trouble directly or indirectly in India, here we have our government requesting SA to play interlocutor’s role … Indian govt is babe in wood when it comes to geo strategy …no wonder we were ruled by foreign power for 1000 yrs…including by the inhuman arbas and turks


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