In late November, 2008, the world stood transfixed in horror as Muslim terrorists waging jihad (jihad fi sabil Allah) went on a murderous rampage in the Indian city of Mumbai. At the time, there was strong suspicion that the terrorists, who belonged to a jihad group called Lashkar e Taiba (LeT), had received some support from the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. But the evidence, while suggestive, wasn’t considered conclusive.
Now it is. An American who became involved with LeT, David Headley, acted as a scout for LeT, picking targets and reporting to… the ISI:
Pakistan’s powerful intelligence services were heavily involved in preparations for the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008, according to classified Indian government documents obtained by the Guardian.
A 109-page report into the interrogation of key suspect David Headley, a Pakistani-American militant arrested last year and detained in the US, makes detailed claims of ISI support for the bombings.
Under questioning, Headley described dozens of meetings between officers of the main Pakistani military intelligence service, the ISI, and senior militants from the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group responsible for the Mumbai attacks.
He claims a key motivation for the ISI in aiding the attacks was to bolster militant organisations with strong links to the Pakistani state and security establishment who were being marginalised by more extreme radical groups.
Headley, who undertook surveillance of the targets in Mumbai for the operation, claims that at least two of his missions were partly paid for by the ISI and that he regularly reported to the spy agency. However, the documents suggest that supervision of the militants by the ISI was often chaotic and that the most senior officers of the agency may have been unaware at least of the scale and ambition of the operation before it was launched.
I’m not sure which is worse: that Pakistan’s intelligence service was involved in the operation, or that it’s so poorly supervised, fractured, and riddled with Islamists that it can run rogue operations senior officials are unaware of. Regardless, I’m wary of the “the bosses didn’t know” argument, as Pakistan has had a long history of using LeT and similar groups as proxy forces against India in Kashmir and have been suspected of facilitating other spectacular attacks inside India.
Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons prevents India from taking strong military action against Pakistan in retaliation (as they have every right to do), but we should nevertheless stay aware that our “ally” in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban is quite willing to play a double or triple game and that it would be foolish to trust them completely.
Via Big Peace.
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)