New Delhi: The US Department of Defense (DoD) has identified Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Pakistan-based group responsible for multiple attacks in India, including 26/11, as one of three terrorist organisations that pose the greatest threat to its troops in Afghanistan.
The classification heralds more trouble for Pakistan, which has been courting international scrutiny for failing to check terror financing.
According to the US, the Hafiz Saeed-led LeT has an active strength of around 300 terrorists in the war-torn country.
“The DoD identified the Haqqani Network, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM, of militant Uighur Muslims), and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba [sic] as groups that present the greatest threat to US and allied forces in Afghanistan,” the latest report on Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the official name for US-led military operations in Afghanistan, said.
The LeT, formed in the 1980s, is one of the largest terror groups currently operating from Pakistani soil, with active support of the state machinery.
Experts tracking terror in the region point out that the US naming the LeT as a threat in Afghanistan is just a formal recognition of something that was always known.
“This does put additional pressure on Pakistan to act because the US will press it more,” a source in the Indian security establishment said when asked about the latest development.
Under increasing scrutiny
Apart from its strikes on India, the LeT has also been linked to terror activity in Europe, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, among other countries.
Though the LeT was banned by Pakistan in 2002, it continues to raise funds and recruit cadres openly. Earlier this year, it also banned the LeT’s front organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its “charity” arm Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.
The US Department of the Treasury had earlier classified LeT chief Saeed as a specially-designated global terrorist, and, since 2012, the country has had a $12 million reward for information that may help bring him to book.
In December 2008, he was listed under UN Security Council Resolution 1267, which entails travel restrictions and an arms embargo. He was released from house arrest in Pakistan in November 2017.
Pakistan has been under increasing global scrutiny over its failure to rein in terrorists operating on its soil. It has been put on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which has brought its financial transactions under the lens. In January last year, US President Donald Trump had described as “foolish” the country’s $33 billion aid over 15 years to Pakistan for anti-terror operations.
Trump had also said that Pakistan was a “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”