Lashkar-e-Taiba, the self-styled "Army of the Pure," has left its footprints in the snows of Kashmir, the back alleys of Lahore and Karachi, the harsh terrain along the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier -- and now, investigators say, in Mumbai, India, the scene of last week's horrific rampage by gunmen.Read the whole thing, here.
The growing case against the Pakistan-based militant organization speaks directly to a doubt that has plagued U.S.-Pakistani relations since the two countries became allies after the Sept. 11 attacks: whether present or former officials in Pakistan's powerful security establishment continue to nurture radical Islamic groups.
Pakistan's relatively weak civilian government, in power less than a year, has shown a degree of reluctance to forcefully confront militant groups or to assert control over the intelligence establishment -- a pattern that could bode ill as fallout from the attacks on India's financial capital poisons relations between the two nuclear-armed countries.
Lashkar-e-Taiba's alleged social wing, which gained prominence after Lashkar was officially banned in 2002, operates openly on a sprawling campus outside the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore. Its head, Hafiz Saeed, was one of the founders of Lashkar and is on a list of about 20 militant suspects India has demanded be handed over.
Pakistan's government vehemently denies involvement in the Mumbai attacks, which left more than 170 people dead and 300 injured, and U.S. officials say no formal links between the attackers and Pakistani officialdom have been found.
However, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Pakistani officials during a visit Thursday that the evidence gathered so far by Indian and Western investigators against Pakistan-based militants was compelling enough that Islamabad should be acting on it.
Successive Pakistani governments have tolerated and even abetted Lashkar-e-Taiba, which for much of its two-decade history was used by Pakistan's intelligence service as a proxy for fighting Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
Pakistani officials insist that in recent years the country's premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, has been purged of militant sympathizers. But as recently as four months ago, U.S. intelligence officials alleged that the ISI aided militants who struck another Indian target, its embassy in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
"You could argue that if you have 20 years of active sponsorship, it takes time for these linkages to disappear from the state apparatus," said Ishtiaq Ahmad, a professor of international relations at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.
This passage is key:
The investigation of the Mumbai attacks is complicated, analysts say, by the fact that much of Lashkar-e-Taiba's operational capability has migrated from the Pakistan-controlled slice of Kashmir to the lawless tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, where many of its camps and training centers are now believed to be.Someone, the United States, the Pakistani government, India, or a multiltateral coalition, needs to go into the area and sweep out the sanctuaries. It's no brainer. You go to the source. Lashkar-e-Taiba is said to have been working out of the tribal areas since 1990, the group has ties to al-Qaeda, and the borderlands are the mountainous redoubts where Osama bin Laden and the Taliban extremist fled after the U.S. mission in Afghanistan in 2001.
If we didn't finish the job then; it's time to do it now. The terrorists have spoken. How will the West respond?