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    South Asia
     Feb 4, 2012


BOOK REVIEW
LeT: Terror incorporated
The Caliphate's Soldiers: The Lashkar-e-Tayyeba's Long War by Wilson John

Reviewed by Surinder Kumar Sharma

The designation of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as a terrorist group by the United Nations after the Mumbai carnage of November, 2008 and Pakistan's promises to control the organization have not affected LeT at all. On the contrary, the group's activities have intensified.

In The Caliphate Soldiers: The Lashker-e-Tayyeba's Long War Wilson John, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, examines the birth and growth of this organization, while noting

 

that neither could've happened without the support of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

John relates how LeT poses a dire threat to India's security and is an obstruction to the normalization of India-Pakistan relations. He also highlights how the murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, Pakistan bureau chief for Asian Times Online, in May 2011 was a telling reminder of what happens to anyone who crosses the line in Pakistan.

There are no visible signs of any disruption in the "strategic partnership" between LeT, the Pakistan army and the ISI, according to the author. Nor are there any visible signs of the Pakistani state "disengaging with", or "dismantling the terrorist group".

John notes that the as the world's most powerful and resourceful multi-national terrorist groups, the threat of LeT strikes by group or its proxies in India and elsewhere will remain high in the coming years. "At least some of these attacks would be spectacular in visibility and impact, and will carry the potential of triggering a military conflict in the region," he writes.

With over 50,000 armed cadres trained in guerrilla warfare, intelligence gathering, explosives and sabotage, LeT has unique leverage vis-a-vis the Pakistan military hierarchy. For Islamabad, it has become a reliable military reserve force that can be used by the Pakistani army like it did during the Kargil war waged by Pakistan's former president, General Pervez Musharraf, in 1999.

LeT runs a number of training centers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwah province, Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The objective is to have an office and a center in every district of Pakistan. LeT spends about US$330 on each trainee for its Daura-e-Aam (basic) course and about $1,700 per trainee in the advanced three-month course, with running costs in excess of $5 million a year.

The army and the ISI make contributions at training camps, with Pakistan's Herald Magazine reporting in June 2006 that ISI payoffs have reached as much as $50,000-60,000 every month. The other key source of LeT money is Islamic charities across the world, particularly those based in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) . Inside Pakistan, LeT acts primarily as a Dawa group promoting a radical interpretation of Islam, much on the lines of its Wahhabi patrons in the Gulf.

These links brings LeT an enormous amount of petro-dollars through donations to madrassas and mosques in Punjab. In 2008, the US estimated these funds at over $100 million a year. Some Pakistani business houses in Punjab also support the group by giving money and food.

John's study brings to light a lesser known facet of Lashkar-e-Toiba: That the group's terrorist activities flourish under the guise of various charity organizations and trusts. These are not driven by any domestic agenda but a broader goal of establishing a Caliphate through jihad.

What makes LeT a greater threat then other outfits is its ability to eliminate other sectarian/extremist/militant groups that may threaten the Pakistan army, while running protest campaigns for the army that shape public opinion against India and the US.

The ability to infiltrate and implant agents far from its natural harbor in Pakistan and its capacity and willingness to train terrorists from different groups and nationalities strongly raises the possibility of LeT executing a terrorist attack on US soil or in any other Western capital. In other words, LeT today has the operational capability, reach and resources to carry out an attack of the magnitude of the September 11, 2001 anywhere in the world.

Since 9/11, LeT has been acting as an agent of al-Qaeda and the Taliban to train new cadres, procure weapons, generate funds and grant protection. Many of the training camps in the tribal areas of Pakistan are either run directly by the LeT. The LeT trainers, many of them ex-army, are some of the world's best experts in making improvised explosive devises (IED's) from easily available material and using them to cause maximum damage.

At one point, the group publicly acknowledged that ran 2,500 offices across Pakistan as recruitment and fund-raising centers. Reports collected by John also reveal that since September 2011, LeT has been recruiting new terrorists and raising funds for jihad openly in the streets of Lahore and other large cities of Punjab.

LeT chief Hafiz Saeed makes regular tours of different parts of Pakistan, raising the banner of jihad and calling for a "million man army" to launch a fresh wave of terrorist attack on India and other infidel countries, including the US.

To manage and coordinate its activities in Pakistan and abroad, LeT has set up various departments such Rabita-Wa-Tanzeem (Department of Cooperation and Organization) - camouflaged as religious and charitable centers for the terrorist group. These include: the Dawaat-e-Islah (Department of Preaching and Reformation), the Department of Education, the Department of Public Services, the Department of Political Affairs, the Department of Labor and Farmers, the Department of Martyrs, and Department of Indoctrination and External Affairs.

Clear evidence of the group's recruitment capability is seen in its ability to attract men and women in neighboring countries like India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal using religious and terrorist networks.

The fact that LeT runs a well-funded external recruitment wing at its headquarters in Muridke, near the city of Lahore, leaves no doubt about the group's global reach and ambition. Its offices are run by Sajid Mir, a former Pakistan soldier.

LeT is likely the world's most powerful and resourceful multinational terror consultancy firm, keeping a rolodex of multinational terrorists, trainers and a massive support network.

The author documents LeT's expansion extensively in the book. David Headley, a Pakistani-American who pleaded guilty in the US for his role in the Mumbai attacks, was working closely with the LeT commanders and facilitators in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, US and Muscat. Then, attacks were being planned on three different countries simultaneously - India, Bangladesh and Denmark - in a clear indication of the LeT's growing capability to organize transnational attacks independent of al-Qaeda networks.

This book also details how the LeT has become a hub for training terrorists in using the latest weapons, explosives and communications devices. The emergence of the Salafi group in the Maldives has considerably helped the LeT expand its recruitment drive in the country. The author warns that what makes the LeT's growing influence on the Maldives more worrisome is the possibility that the group will use the island nation for attacks against India, or block strategic sea communication lines in the Indian Ocean.

The LeT has also been using Nepal as a transit point for terrorists travelling to and from Bangladesh and Pakistan while routing money and weapons for attacks in India. Instead of operating its own units in Nepal, as has done in the past, the ISI has been keen on establishing networks with Maoist and Muslim organizations for anti-India operations.

A closer study of Hafiz Saeed's speeches and writings and other published works complied by the author lay out a roadmap of global jihad with surprising clarity: once Kashmir is liberated, the group plans to work towards disintegrating India in whatever manner possible.

Interestingly, the book also reveals that the LeT is not averse to using nuclear weapons to achieve its goals. LeT has not only trained cadres in chemical and radiological weapons (dirty bombs), it also has links with nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is a frequent visitor to the LeT's annual congregation in Muridke.

Any individual interested in South Asian security cannot afford to ignore this book. Ashley J Tellis, senior associate with Carnegie, Endowment for International Peace, Washington, says in his foreword that there is no other book that fully covers LeT's history through to its virulent ideology and organization, resource mobilization and operations.

The Caliphate's Soldiers: The Lashkar-e-Tayyeba's Long War by Wilson John, Amaryllis Publication, New Delhi, 2011. ISBN-10: 9381506019. Price US$30, 295 pages.

Surinder Kumar Sharma is associated with the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi, as a Consultant.

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


Lashkar-e-Toiba - safe at home (Sep 17, '11)

Lashkar-e-Toiba in the dock (Sep 13, '11)


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(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, Feb 2, 2012)

 
 



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