The lead story in today’s New York Times reports a definitive connection between the Lashkar-e Taiba (“Army of the Pure”) terrorist group and Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service. The Times points out, though, that there is no evidence that ISI was involved in the planning of the attack–yet. Here are two important quotes from the article, both from U.S. officials, who points out that ISI provided funding and training for Lashkar:
“It goes beyond information sharing to include some funding and training. And these are not rogue ISI elements. What’s going on is done in a fairly disciplined way.”
“It’s one thing to say the ISI is tied to Lashkar and quite another to say the ISI was behind the Mumbai attacks. The evidence at this point doesn’t get you there.”
Indian officials, meanwhile, aren’t quite allowing for that nuance. The Post quotes a senior Indian source saying: “We have the names of the handlers. And we know that there is a close relationship between the Lashkar and the ISI.”
That handler, according to the Times report cited above, may be a man named Zarrar Shah:
“American and Indian officials believe that one senior Lashkar commander in particular, Zarrar Shah, is one of the group’s primary liaisons to the ISI. Investigators in India are also examining whether Mr. Shah, a communications specialist, helped plan and carry out the attacks in Mumbai. ‘He’s a central character in this plot,’ an American official said.”
The Wall Street Journal has a good profile of Lashkar today.
The Times notes that the Lashkar chief, Haffiz Muhammad Saeed, openly preached his sermon near Lahore, in Pakistan, on Friday, including this gem: “Now Condoleezza Rice has rushed to India and Pakistan because infidels are united. If infidels do not stop their anti-Muslim activities, the Muslims are second to none in taking revenge.” If Pakistan doesn’t crack down on psychotics like Saeed, well, let’s not think about that. So far, at least, there are no reports of Indian or Pakistani troop mobilizations, except for the brief Pakistani alert called after a hoax or prank call to Pakistan’s president from a man purporting to be India’s foreign minister. But India’s actual foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, did say that India will “act decisively … with all the means at our disposal.”