♦♠ ♦♠ ♦♠Stephen Tankel, author of the book 'Lashkar-e-Tayiba, From 9/11 to Mumbai', feels the Pakistani terror outfit continues to be the most dangerous as far as India is concerned.
In this interview with Rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa, Tankel, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says Pakistan has not taken any steps to dismantle the Lashkar since it still has utility vis-a-vis India.
Click to view image: 'l e t terrorists rocket'
♦♠ ♦♠ ♦♠Two years have passed since the 26/11(Mumbai) attacks. How do you think the scenario regarding terrorism has changed in the world today?
I think several trends that were already extant at the time of 26/11 have accelerated since then.
First, the threat from Pakistan's tribal areas comes from a congress of groups acting together, such that it is often difficult to ascribe responsibility to any one outfit.
Second, we seem to be seeing increasing hybridisation in terms of targets, especially in South Asia.
For example, the targeting of foreign interests in India, which was one of the notable features of 26/11, continued with the bombing in Pune.
Third, the threat is also expanding geographically. Several years ago, Yemen and Somalia were places we worried about. Now those concerns have been borne out by attempted and successful attacks.
♦♠ ♦♠ ♦♠The US recently said that Al Qaeda continues to be more dangerous compared to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. Do you think this is correct?
I think one needs to qualify this by asking: Dangerous to whom? Al Qaeda continues to be pose a greater threat to the US, but the Lashkar clearly is more dangerous to India.
♦♠ ♦♠ ♦♠What are your thoughts on David Headley's revelations? Is he as big as he being made out to be?
I've seen Headley's testimony and I think it reinforces a lot of what we already knew or suspected. This is especially true with regard to the tensions within Lashkar and the degree to which the scale of the 26/11 attacks was fuelled by internal dynamics.
♦♠ ♦♠ ♦♠Do you feel that Pakistan has let go of the Lashkar or does it still continue to support it?
I don't know that it is one or the other. The army and the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) have not taken steps to dismantle the Lashkar for two main reasons:
First, fear of driving the group into the insurgency in Pakistan; and second, because it still has utility vis-a-vis India.
The aim is still to control the group, but I question the degree to which this control filters throughout the ranks.
♦♠ ♦♠ ♦♠Has the Lashkar emerged into a global organisation or does Al Qaeda continue to hold the fort?
There is no question that the Lashkar has grown beyond the dynamics of the India-Pakistan competition and become more active in the global jihad. Indeed, this evolution has been taking place since 9/11.
However, I'd argue that the core leadership and a significant portion of the rank-and-file remain influenced by national and regional dynamics.
So it is emerging into a more globally-oriented organisation, but evidence suggests the ambition to grow in this direction is not uniform throughout the group.
♦♠ ♦♠ ♦♠There appears to be talk of a split in the Lashkar. Is it for real?
It is fair to say that factionalism in the Lashkar has increased in recent years as has freelancing. There are real disagreements about how involved to be in Afghanistan, in the insurgency in Pakistan and in the global jihad in general.
♦♠ ♦♠ ♦♠According to David Headley, Ilyas Kashmiri is emerging as the next bin Laden. Is this correct?
I am not sure it helps to try to compare him to Osama who at this stage is a much more inspirational figure. I doubt Kashmiri could ever play this type of role.
He is more of a military operator, and in this regard he is a very dangerous actor in his own right.
♦♠ ♦♠ ♦♠Do you think both India and Pakistan are in a better position to talk peace today as compared to last year?
Yes, relative to last year I do think they are in a better position. That does not mean they are in a good position, but things have improved.
♦♠ ♦♠ ♦♠How do you think Pakistan's approach towards dealing with terrorism has changed in the past two years?
Pakistan's counter-insurgency capabilities have improved and it has shown greater commitment to dealing with some of the militants within its borders. For that it deserves recognition.
Unfortunately, selectivity remains the order of the day. In part this owes to a desire to avoid drawing additional outfits into the insurgency. But it also stems from the belief of some elements within the country that the use of militant proxies for geopolitical purposes remains a sound strategy.
♦♠ ♦♠ ♦♠Which outfits do you rate as most dangerous to the world today -- Lashkar, Al Qaeda or the Taliban?
I think that depends on where you live in the world. The Taliban is by far the most dangerous of the three in Afghanistan.
Al Qaeda is the most focused on destabilising Pakistan and executing attacks against US interests throughout the world.
Lashkar clearly poses the greatest danger to India.
To me, the more interesting and more dangerous development is the degree to which these three outfits along with a host of others are increasingly working together and blending their target selection accordingly.
TERRORIST ATTACKS IN INDIA ... AMERICAN AND BRITISH HOSTAGES - 27/11/2008
War on Terror spreads to India (a nuclear power in the world). Terrorists launch attack on many locations simultaneously. Take hostages and target civilian tourists... singling out British and American civilians abroad. PRESENTLY, OVER 100 PEOPLE DEAD. Gunmen targeted several areas in the Indian city of ...
Gunmen targeted several areas in the Indian city of Mumbai on Wednesday, taking scores of hostages, killing dozens and taking hostages in two luxury hotels frequented by Westerners: The Taj Mahal Hotel and the Oberoi Hotel. Below is a running list of accounts from news agencies in the area.
Confirmed by CNN: TIMELINE OF MUMBAI ATTACK
12:10 a.m. ET (10:40 a.m. IT: The number of policemen killed has risen to 16
11:30 p.m. ET (10 a.m. IT): A militant in the Oberoi Hotel has told a TV station that he is among seven people holding hostages there, according to the Times of India.
The militant told the TV station that the attackers want India to release all "mujahideens."
"Only after that will we release the people," the militant told the TV station, according to the Times of India.
11:10 p.m. ET (9:40 a.m. IT): Authorities say one arrestee is a member of the group Lashkar-e-Tayiba, according to Rediff.com.
11:05 p.m. ET (9:35 a.m. IT): Besides raiding the Taj hotel, security forces also have entered the Oberoi Hotel and the Cama Hospital for women and infants, CNN's sister station CNN-IBN reported.
The standoff at Cama Hospital appears to have been resolved; it was not immediately known whether suspects at the hospital fled or were killed, CNN-IBN reported.
11 p.m. ET (9:30 a.m. IT): Police have said the death toll in the Mumbai attacks is at 101 -- including six foreigners, the Times of India reports.
Gunfire is heard at the Nariman House in the Colaba area, and police have cordoned off the area amid reports that suspects are in the building, Rediff.com reports. 10:40 p.m. ET (9:10 a.m. IT): People are being evacuated from the Taj Hotel as security forces continue their battle against attackers there, Rediff.com reports. Rediff.com reports a journalist has been injured in the fighting.
10:05 p.m. ET (8:35 a.m. IT): NDTV.com (New Delhi Television Limited) reports the dead include at least 11 policemen, including the head of an anti-terror squad. The site continues to say at least 100 people were killed in attacks on 10 sites in Mumbai, while other outlets, including CNN-IBN, report lower numbers (87).
Multiple Indian news outlets have quoted witnesses as saying the attackers were looking for American and British nationals at the hotels. NDTV.com quotes a witness as saying: "Gunmen wanted anyone with British or American passport."
NDTV.com is streaming live video of its coverage.
9:35 p.m. ET (8:05 a.m. IT): Gunshots are fired as military and other security forces move into the Taj hotel, one of two hotels where people are being held hostage, Rediff.com reports. According to Rediff.com, police believe three or four hostage-takers are inside the hotel. Multiple Indian news outlets report at least 100 people are trapped and perhaps being held hostage in the Taj, where fire and smoke could be seen. 9:20 p.m. ET (7:50 a.m. IT): While multiple outlets have reported that a group called the Deccan Mujahideen have claimed responsibility for the attacks, Rediff.com reports that police and the Intelligence Bureau are not ruling out the involvement by the Indian Mujahideen, an offshoot of the Students Islamic Movement of India.
The Intelligence Bureau said authorities cracked down on the Indian Mujahideen in Mumbai, and that the IM responded by warning it was "just waiting for the right time to execute bloodshed," Rediff.com reported.
9:10 p.m. ET (7:40 a.m. IT): NDTV.com reports at least 100 people were killed in the attacks and that hundreds of hostages still are being held at two hotels, including the Taj hotel. Other outlets report lower death tolls, including CNN-IBN, which reports 87 dead.
NDTV.com reports five suspects have been killed, three escaped, and nine have been arrested.
LASHKAR-E-TAIBA - MUMBAI
BBC Animated Coverage on Mumbai Attacks
In: Afghanistan, Other
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