As usual, this month’s edition of the West Point CTC Sentinel is packed full of excellent and timely articles. In particular, their headline piece detailing the background and recent activities of the Pakistan-based Lashkar e Tayyiba (LeT) is well worth a read. Also, the WSJ has a great summary of the group here.
This Thanksgiving (Nov 26th) marked the one-year anniversary of LeT’s horrific attack against multiple targets across Mumbai – significant not only because of the attack’s high casualty rate but also because it was LeT’s first attempt to propel themselves onto the global stage by focusing on a “Western” target set. For a riveting account of the attacks, check out HBO’s recent documentary “Terror in Mumbai,” which overlays video of the attacks at multiple sites with real-time voice intercepts gathered by Indian intelligence. It’s fascinating and chilling to hear the attackers on the ground being directed over cell phone by their controllers many miles away in Pakistan, representing a new shift in TTPs. It was clear throughout the attacks that the LeT controllers’ main objective was to gain global media attention and ensure that all ten attackers martyred themselves (only one attacker survived).
For more background on the initial formation of LeT, their ties to Pakistani intelligence (ISI), a history of attacks, details of the Mumbai attack, and the group’s current disposition, check out the following resources:
-Lashkar e Taiba Wikipedia entry (here)
-RAND “Lessons of Mumbai” Report (here)
-Carnegie Endowment Mumbai Attack Site (here)
-MSNBC Detailed Timeline of Mumbai Attacks (here)
As we consider the future of irregular warfare and terrorism, it’s critical to monitor the threat posed by regionally-based terrorist groups who become increasingly mobilized in line with a global Islamist ideology. Although LeT remains primarily focused on targeting Indian interests in the short-term, I believe there exists a growing element within the group who desire to “go global” and parallel the path of AQ. Some reports also argue that LeT is increasing their cooperation with AQ and the Pakistani Taliban – an alarming trend based on the strong presence and large numbers of fighters that LeT has in the tribal regional of NW Pakistan. It will be very important to continue to monitor this group and potential splinter groups who may attempt another attack on Western interests in the next 2-3 years, especially across the border into Afghanistan.
We must also look to similar emerging threats from what have traditionally been regionally-based groups in Northern Africa (GPSC becoming AQIM), East Africa (al Shabaab movement in Somalia), Yemen/Saudi Arabia (AQAP), etc. Although these groups continue to primarily draw popular support and recruits based on local/regional grievances, elements within them are forming increasingly strong bonds with AQ proper (based in the AfPak region). These "AQ affiliates" have the potential to dramatically increase the global reach and capabilities of the group in the next 5-10 years if left unchecked.