Identifying the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as an organisation with global reach, a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said on Thursday that the fact that it has a social welfare wing made no difference to its status as a terrorist organisation.
Speaking at a conference here, U.S. Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Daniel Benjamin said the global community must act against the LeT, lest it should fill the gap left by al-Qaeda. His observation comes two days after the LeT rejected India-Pakistan talks and reiterated its belief in jihad to liberate Jammu and Kashmir at a rally organised near the India-Pakistan border.
“One of the greatest obstacles is the increase in terrorist activity due to the emergence of transnational elements. Nowhere are they as strong as in the Middle East and South Asia. We must be able to disrupt those links,” Mr. Benjamin said. That was why the Obama administration was working on resolving the Arab-Israel and other regional conflicts, because extremists were using these to radicalise people.
The U.S. was determined to move counter-terrorism to a more strategic level in its ties with India by making it the “central pillar” of its relationship. At the same time, he advocated a regional solution, involving Islamabad, to curb the activity of transnational actors such as the LeT. “Pakistan has suffered too much….it has shown cooperation in Swat.”
Mr. Benjamin had made similar observations before, stating the LeT was having a malign presence in South Asia with the disposition to carry out large-scale bloodshed, which must checked by a regional approach.
German Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Bernd Mutzelburg said lack of common security architecture in South Asia allowed terrorism to fester. “The region most affected by terrorism is also the least prepared to counter it through regional cooperation. For peace and stability in Afghanistan, we need a regional arrangement involving Iran, India, Pakistan, China, Russia, the U.S. and NATO.”
Pakistan's bid to make Afghanistan its sphere of influence reminded him of the Soviet Union's approach to the Baltic countries and was “not acceptable.” Arrests of several Taliban leaders, including those willing to enter into meaningful talks, seemed to send the message that “don't you dare enter into negotiations without us [Pakistan] being in the lead.”
While he had no recipe for solving the Afghanistan problem, Mr. Mutzelburg wanted South Asia to look at the European model. At the same time, the world must examine an “internal arrangement” in Afghanistan, offering an “inclusive solution” by talking to those who dissociated themselves from international terrorism.
There was no alternative to talks between India and Pakistan, and the two countries would be able to take decisive steps against terrorism if the dialogue between the Foreign Secretaries was allowed to continue. At the same time, Pakistan must convince India that it was serious against the jihadi groups, he said.