Lashkar e Taiba

Many people worldwide consider Lashkar e Taiba (LeT), a Pakistani guerrilla group, as a violent, Islamic militant group http://www.counterextremism.com/threat/lashkar-e-taiba. This guerrilla group uses terrorist methods to establish power and fear around Asia. Lashkar e Taiba was established in 1989 by Hafiz Mohammed Saeed as the military branch of the Pakistani Islamist organization Markaz-ad-Dawa-wal-Irshad (MDI), which uses the Ahl-e-Hadith (AeH) Islam interpretation, but it allegedly broke from the group in 2002 http://web.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/79. The LeT originally focused on the Soviet presence in Afghanistan but then redirected its attention to the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir. To create stability in India, Pakistan’s government, Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) has supported this group since around 1990. The LeT sees the dispute over the territory as a global struggle against the oppression of Muslims. The militant group wishes to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Indian subcontinent. The exact number of LeT members is currently unknown but it probably has a couple thousand members https://www.nctc.gov/site/groups/lt.html. Most of the members are Pakistani nationalists looking to see Kashmir and Jammu under Pakistani rule.

The first LeT attack occurred in 1990 as they ambushed a small number of Indian Air Force personnel. Until the mid 1990’s the LeT exclusively targeted India’s military in Jammu and Kashmir. On January 5, 1996 the group became infamous for multiple massacres as it targeted a minority group in Kashmir and killed 16 Hindus. The most notable attack, known as the Chattisinghpora attack, occurred in 2000 and caused the death of 35 Sikhs in Anantnag the night before Bill Clinton visited India.

LeT’s larger goal is to eliminate India’s power in the entire region and not just in the Jammu and Kashmir area. To recruit Indian Muslims to carry out terrorist attacks in India, Hafiz Saeed exploited tensions between Hindus and Muslims. The Red Fort attack in New Delhi was one of the first of the attacks carried out by recruited Indians, which was symbolic because it was where the last Muslim rulers of the Indian sub-continent resided. This established LeT as a militant threat to India, but it was not one of their more devastating attacks.

Due to the group’s attack in New Delhi in December 2001, India mobilized approximately 700,000 soldiers along its border with Pakistan. By doing so, India threatened war unless Islamic militants ceased crossing the border. In response, Pakistan mobilized its military along the boarder as well. The US ultimately stepped in to defuse tensions by acknowledging the difference between the state of Pakistan and terrorist groups working within Pakistan for the first time. The LeT was officially added to the US’s foreign terrorist organization list in 2002, which ultimately forced the Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to ban the LeT http://www.cfr.org/pakistan/lashkar-e-taiba-army-pure-aka-lashkar-e-tayyiba-lashkar-e-toiba-lashkar–taiba/p17882. In 2005, the UN recognized the LeT as a terrorist organization.

Following these events analysts believe that the group has gone underground, split up, has been going by various different names and has stopped taking responsibility for attacks. According to India, the LeT has split into two main factions over the past few years; the al-Mansurin and the al-Nasirin http://www.cfr.org/pakistan/lashkar-e-taiba-army-pure-aka-lashkar-e-tayyiba-lashkar-e-toiba-lashkar–taiba/p17882. According to accounts, in 2005 Pakistan’s officials were resistant to moving against the LeT. The group has decreased the number of attacks in India to help Pakistan honor US and Indian commitments; however, Saeed continues to roam free and grow his organization despite the split in control.

There have been rumors that Lashkar e Taiba and al-Qaeda are linked together. In 2002, a senior member of al-Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah, was seized at a LeT safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Some believe that Lashkar e Taiba is no longer Pakistan’s weapon in the fight for Kashmir, but rather a member of al-Qaeda http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/11/lashkaretaiba_is_a_member_of_a.php. LeT operates throughout southern and Southeast Asia, and because of its large network, various resources and ability to carry out complex attacks throughout the region, a senior US military intelligence official nicknamed the organization as “al-Qaeda junior.” Some individuals believe LeT has the capability to take al-Qaeda’s place if it collapses.

Lashkar e Taiba has frightened governments and civilians with its numerous attacks, massacres and destruction. The guerrilla group has proven itself quite capable of putting fear in people even when it is forced underground. Even as a disassembled organization, people still affiliate it with larger and more prominent terrorist organizations and even believe it could replace a group such as al-Qaeda.

 

Inter-Services Intelligence: Intelligence Agency or Covert Operation?

The Inter-Services Intelligence (or ISI) of Pakistan, founded in 1948, is viewed as one of the best-organized and one of the most secretive intelligence agencies in the world. The intelligence agency came to power and prominence during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979-1989. The ISI, the United States, and Saudi Arabia aided the Muslim holy war guerrillas in their fight to win the war against atheistic communism. The ISI also helped to train and create the Taliban, and still maintains connections with the terrorist group. Pakistan’s strained relations with India and the U.S. are shared with its intelligence agency, and the countries often clash over the ISI’s operations. One of the issues that causes conflict is the secrecy surrounding Pakistan’s intelligence agency. Inter-Services Intelligence has become increasingly distrusted because of its suspicious activities that lead to doubts as to whether the agency is controlled by the government or has begun to operate on its own.

The ISI is widely known for its secrecy, which leads to little communication between the intelligence agency and other groups, as well as, perhaps. its own government. An inquiry commission report exposed the lack of access there is to the ISI. Those who desire to convey information to the ISI do not have a way to share it with the Inter-Services Intelligence. The sole Pakistani intelligence agency has no website or email address, while nearly all other intelligence agencies had made their methods of contact public. This commision reported that this obscurity could serve “only…to remain aloof and unapproachable and therefore unquestionable and unaccountable.” 

For the most part, this unaccountability has led to uncertainty among foreign intelligence agencies as to the actions and motivations of the Inter-Services Intelligence. The historical connections between the ISI and the Taliban have led to many suspicions from other countries’ governments. Bruce Riedel of Brookings Institution writes that “Pakistan and its intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate of the army (ISI), have more influence over the Taliban than any other country or intelligence service.”  The agency gives the Taliban protection to the group’s leaders, military and diplomatic advice, and helps in fundraising. This close relationship has added fuel to fire when it comes to rumors of the ISI’s power to plan Taliban attacks. Pakistan has also been accused of maintaining connections with the Haqqani network, which the Inter-Services Intelligence has not denied, but the ISI has denied supporting the guerrilla group. These types of interactions with dangerous, unpredictable groups like the Taliban and the Haqqanis show an isolation of the ISI from the more regulated government.

The danger these relations pose incites a great deal of fear in many of the governments of other countries, most prominently in the United States and India. The struggle between these three countries makes the connections between the ISI and terrorist groups rather alarming. Conflict over control in Afghanistan has increased tensions between the countries in past years. There has also been a lack of communication between the Inter-Services Intelligence and the intelligence agencies of the U.S. and India. Therefore, as terrorist attacks become more of a security threat, the suspicions toward the ISI tend to increase proportionally. It is widely believed that the Pakistani intelligence agency directs some of these attacks. The U.S. and India then become less likely to communicate civilly, instead retaliating violently. The lack of communication between the groups leads to very unstable relationships that only exacerbate the situation.

The government of Pakistan is often held accountable for these issues, while the Inter-Services Intelligence remains largely off the grid, and so is disconnected from responsibility. Michael Georgy, of Reuters News Agency, writes that “the shadowy military intelligence agency has evolved into what some describe as a state within a state.” Though the ISI is disconnected from foreign intelligence agencies, it is dangerously connected to the Taliban and Haqqanis, making this lack of communication exponentially more frightening to foreign countries. This alarming conduct of the Pakistani intelligence agency does not seem to be controlled by Pakistan’s government, instead the Inter-Services Intelligence seems to be following its own agenda, independent from the government that it is supposedly a branch of, free from any restraint that the Pakistani government might have provided.