US, EU differ over Pak role in Afghanistan but agree on LeT threat

The United States and its European allies have developed differences over Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan particularly in the wake of arrest of Mullah Baradar and some other Taliban leaders in Karachi but there is agreement that the Lashkar-e-Taiba is emerging as the terror outfit No. 1.

US coordinator for counter terrorism Daniel Benjamin has welcomed the Baradar’s arrests as ‘ a very important bit of counter- terrorism action. In fact, he said the US was actually grateful to Pakistan for arresting Mullah Baradar, the Taliban leader next only to Mullah Omar.

But German special envoy for Afghanistan, Bernd Mutzelburg, has termed the arrest of the Taliban leader with whom Kabul has opened a dialogue of sorts, as a manifestation of Pakistan’s resolve on not allowing any negotiations with the Taliban in which Islamabad doesn’t have a role.

The US official has rejected the German contention as just conspiracy theorizing.  Both were speaking at a seminar, `International Symposium on India’s Role in a Multi-Polar World’, but Benjamin rubbished this theory and went on to compliment Pakistan for its actions.

Significantly, Kai Eide, who was UN’s special representative in Afghanistan till early March, shares Mutzelburg’s concern. So does the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who had held a long meeting with Pakistan Army chief General Kayani at GHQ in Rawalpindi, during his latest visit to Islamabad.

THREAT FROM LET

There is agreement however that LeT has come to fill the ‘terror gap’ left by a diminished al Qaeda.

‘As was evident in 26/11, LeT has filled the gap left by a diminished Al Qaeda’, said Daniel Benjamin. ‘Mumbai attacks were straight out of the Al Qaeda policy plan book. We will not achieve our security aims if this group, with thousands of men under arms, remains active’.

According to Benjamin, it is wrong to think that groups like LeT are Kashmiri or wedded totally to the Kashmir cause.

‘We are less and less able to distinguish precisely because many of the Kashmiri groups. First of all, some groups have been called Kashmiri, like LeT, but are in fact Punjabi, and are very much active in different parts of India as well as in Afghanistan’.

He went on to say: ‘Very few things worry me as much as the strength and the ambition of LeT, which is a truly maligned presence in South Asia’. Recalling that the LeT had tried to attack the American embassy in Dhaka, the US counter-terrorism official remarked this is reason enough for deep concern.

LeT is blamed for the Feb 26 attack on Indian doctors in Kabul as a part of its plan to ‘drive Indians out of Afghanistan’.

LeT –ISI LINKS

Afghan intelligence officials said the perpetrators were from LeT because they were heard talking in Urdu by those present at the spot.

Several satellite phone conversations intercepted by Indian agencies also suggest the involvement of LeT in the attack.  In one of these conversations, the terrorists were heard talking about the need to hurt India in Kabul.

The location of the satellite phone in most of these conversations that took place in Urdu was established in areas adjoining the Kunar province along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Kunar gave birth to the LeT in early 90s.

These intercepts show that notwithstanding their denials, Pakistan’s ISI officials are in constant touch with LeT and Afghan based terrorist groups like Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), which is headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, to engineer attacks against Indians and Indian establishments in Afghanistan.

INDONESIAN LINKS

A Jakarta report says al- Qaida and LeT have Indonesian links and these came upfront from the transcripts of Internet chat sessions recovered from the computer of Muhammad Jibriel (26), who is presently standing trail. He is accused of helping fund the 2009 suicide bombings at a Jakarta luxury hotel.

In the transcript Jibriel is identified as the man suspected of using the screen name “the killer”. Son of an Afghan- trained cleric, he went to a boarding school linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba. He attended a LeT training camp as he himself mentions in the transcript.
Reminiscing fondly about time spent in ‘Kash’ (Kashmir), he says he was taught to fire sniper rifles and shoulder-held rockets. He mentions a trip he made in late 2007 to Waziristan where he met with al-Qaida and Taliban leaders, including someone called Abu Bilal al Turki.

Another transcript speaks about sending recruits to Waziristan. ‘I have still got my pass to Pakistan, his name is Muhammad Yunus’, Jibriel writes using a different alias and notes that the big AQ (al-Qaida) guys here do not agree that everyone should leave. ‘We have to look at our guys and choose, based on their abilities because people there don’t want any hassle. At the very least they have to be prepared to stay a long time, 2 or 3 years’. (www.poreg.org)

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Journalist, South Asian Analyst