Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Good Analysis of Pakistani influence on Mumbai Massacre

Small ISI Kashmir Op Morphed into LeT Mumbai Massacre [Steve Schippert] I strongly recommend you read the following: Syed Saleem Shahzad, a source I generally trust in Pakistan, writes that an al-Qaeda "hijack" of a smaller ISI operation intended for Kashmir led to the Mumbai attack. After a concise (and required) historical recap of the al-Qaeda/India/LeT dynamic, he gets to the meat and potatoes: Under directives from Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kiani, who was then director general (DG) of the ISI, a low-profile plan was prepared to support Kashmiri militancy. That was normal, even in light of the peace process with India. Although Pakistan had closed down its major operations, it still provided some support to the militants so that the Kashmiri movement would not die down completely. After Kiani was promoted to chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Nadeem Taj was placed as DG of the ISI. The external section under him routinely executed the plan of Kiani and trained a few dozen LET militants near Mangla Dam (near the capital Islamabad). They were sent by sea to Gujrat, from where they had to travel to Kashmir to carry out operations. Meanwhile, a major reshuffle in the ISI two months ago officially shelved this low-key plan as the country’s whole focus had shifted towards Pakistan’s tribal areas. The director of the external wing was also changed, placing the “game” in the hands of a low-level ISI forward section head (a major) and the LET’s commander-in-chief, Zakiur Rahman. Zakiur was in Karachi for two months to personally oversee the plan. However, the militant networks in India and Bangladesh comprising the Harkat, which were now in al-Qaeda’s hands, tailored some changes. Instead of Kashmir, they planned to attack Mumbai, using their existent local networks, with Westerners and the Jewish community center as targets. Zakiur and the ISI’s forward section in Karachi, completely disconnected from the top brass, approved the plan under which more than 10 men took Mumbai hostage for nearly three days and successfully established a reign of terror. The attack, started from ISI headquarters and fined-tuned by al-Qaeda, has obviously caused outrage across India. The next issue is whether it has the potential to change the course of India’s regional strategy and deter it from participating in NATO plans in Afghanistan. Again, I strongly recommend you read it in full. And keep in mind that the LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) was an original signatory to bin Laden's International Islamic Front in 1998, which formally created al-Qaeda as "the base" organization for international Islamic terror groups. At ThreatsWatch, I listed five points about Shahzad's information and the "ISI shake-up" from September. Ultimately, I was compelled to leave the following observations in conclusion. General Kiyani may have intended a minor operation for Kashmir and was almost certainly in the dark about the metamorphosis of the operation into a Mumbai massacre, but the law of unintended consequences holds little acquittal when leaders play with the fire of terrorism. Even while the ISI political wing was disbanded just days before the Mumbai attack, the shakeup atop the ISI is irrelevant without a trickle-down impact. And so long as ‘mid-level’ men such as Major Zakiur Rahman man posts and sign off on al-Qaeda affiliates’ massacres, there is little hope for Pakistan’s emergence from the tinderbox of terrorism without itself being consumed by the very fires it tolerates. Westerners call it a ‘come to Jesus’ moment. Whatever the South Asian equivalent, Pakistan has yet to have its own. When it does, the fighting inside Pakistan, among Pakistanis (and assorted imported radical travelers) will be fierce and bloody. May the jihadiyun not be the only ones armed and willing to fight. It's a troubling report on many levels. It is not, sadly, a surprising report. I have remarked before that America's natural ally in the War on Terror is India. Elements within the Pakistani military and intelligence sympathetic to al-Qaeda will do the terrorists' bidding and drive the final wedge. This probably isn't it. But "the final wedge" will look very similar unless Pakistani leaders truly have a "come to Jesus" moment, as we Westerners like to call it. I am quite sure Pakistani Muslims would prefer a different choice of words. I am also quite sure that many of us presume a "come to Jesus" moment for Pakistan would be a moment where terrorists are categorically rejected. Yet it may well be in quite the opposite direction. Either way, it will be a moment of clarity. That much, at least, will be welcomed by many, if not the events that follow.

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