Lashkar-e-Tayyiba stronger than ever: Experts
Washington: Five years after the horrific Mumbai terror attacks, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is stronger than ever and remains the "favoured instrument" of Pakistani military and the ISI against India, US experts have said.
"Lashkar-e-Tayyiba is stronger today than ever. It has a secure stronghold in Pakistan, networks in the Gulf for fundraising and cells in the Pakistani diaspora in the UK, UK and elsewhere. It is a major threat to India, America and others," Bruce Riedel, the former CIA analyst and a top American expert on South Asian counter-terrorism issues told PTI.
Experts and ex-administration officials reiterated the ISI of Pakistan continues to support LeT, which they warned now poses an equal threat to the US and India.
Anish Goel, who served as senior director for South Asia in National Security Council (NSC) of the White House in President Barack Obama's first term, said, "To my knowledge, LeT has not been significantly weakened in recent years, so it undoubtedly still poses a significant threat to India," he said.
"The group has historically focused on India so the direct threat to the United States is likely not as great.
At the same time, many of the militant organisations in Pakistan work with one another so the United States cannot ignore LeT, or any militant group in the region," he said.
Describing LeT is an armed wing of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) Arif Jamal, a Pakistan scholar and author of forthcoming book 'Call for Transitional Jihad: Lashkar-e-Taiba 1985-2014' said that JuD has grown tremendously stronger in the last five years.
"The JuD/LeT is literally the biggest threat to the world peace. It is one of the biggest terrorist groups in the history with more than half a million armed and trained members. Roughly half of them are within the fighting age range," Jamal told PTI.
And instead of taking any effective acting against LeT and its leaders, the Pakistani establishment, in particular the ISI continues to provide its support to the terrorist outfit.
"The LeT remains the favoured instrument of the ISI. The Sharif government is even less inclined than the Zardari government to take on the LeT given its strength in the Punjab in general and Lahore in particular," said Riedel, who is now at the Brookings Institute, when asked about the links between the ISI and the LeT.