Amidst reports that terror outfit LeT might be planning a major attack in India, the CIA chief on Wednesday told US lawmakers that another such strike would undermine US efforts in Pakistan by raising tensions between the two neighbours.
CIA Director Leon Panetta said at a Congressional hearing that besides al Qaeda the US now faces a series of threats from terror groups like al-Shabaab, Hezbollah and Hamas.
“A particular concern is Lashkar-e-Taiba which, if they should conduct an attack against India, could very well undermine our efforts in Pakistan,” Mr. Panetta said expressing his apprehension of the impact that attack could have on relationship between India and Pakistan.
Mr. Panetta said this in his appearance before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence which held a hearing on ’Current Projected Threats to the United States’
A US-based security think tank in its yearly forecast had recently said that Pakistan-based terror groups have a .
“strategic intent” to launch major new attacks on the Indian soil to trigger a conflict between the two countries.
Mr. Panetta said one of the greatest concerns was of an al Qaeda attack on the United States, and the threat was a prime reason why the US has undertaken the task of dismantling terror infrastructure.
He said the greatest threat comes from the fact that al Qaeda, which had launched the 9/11 attacks, had adapted its methods making them difficult to detect.
“We have done a very effective job at disrupting their operations in FATA,” forcing them to move to other regional nodes like Yemen and Somalia, the Maghreb and others, Mr. Panetta said.
“I think intelligence confirms that they are finding it difficult to be able to engage in planning and command --and -- control operations to put together a large attack,” he said.
He said the terrorists were now pursuing an effort to try to strike at the US in three ways, including deploying individuals like Zazi and Headley in the country and by using terrorists who have hitherto had “clean credentials” like Abdulmutallab.
“And the third is the loner, an individual like Hasan (Texas military base shooter) who, out of self-radicalisation, decides that the moment has come to engage in an attack by himself,” Mr. Panetta said.
The bottom line here, he said, is that the war on terrorism is against a series of groups confronting the US.
Appearing before the same committee, FBI Director Robert Mueller said al-Qaeda trainers see Pakistan’s tribal areas as less secure and this had led al Qaeda to franchise into regional components in places such as North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
“This evolution has been most rapid with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula which has changed from a regional group with links to al-Qaeda to a global threat with reach into American cities such as Detroit,” he said.