Despite recently resumed talks, tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan remain high. In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ashley Tellis warned that continued Pakistani support for the terrorist group Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT) threatens to undermine the delicate peace between the two countries and plunge the region into conflict, with significant consequences for American interests abroad.
The Situation on the Ground in Pakistan:
- LeT is—with the exception of al-Qaeda—arguably the most important terrorist group operating from South Asia and was the mastermind of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. It remains the spearhead of the Pakistani military’s campaign against India.
- LeT remains primarily Pakistani in its composition, uses Pakistani territory as its main base of operation, and continues to be supported extensively by the Pakistani state, especially the Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
- LeT’s capability to conduct terrorism multinationally has increased: it does not need constant operational support from the ISI to be effective.
- LeT’s ambitions extend beyond India. The organization’s close ties with al-Qaeda in Pakistan and its support for the Afghan Taliban’s military operations pose a direct threat to U.S. citizens, soldiers, and interests.
U.S. Policy Recommendations:
- Be candid about Pakistan’s role: The United States should stop pretending that LeT is an independent actor. Candid recognition that the organization receives protection and support from Pakistan would go a long way toward solving the problem.
- Partner together with India on joint counterterrorism operations: Since the attack on Mumbai in 2008, the United States and India have successfully partnered together on matters of intelligence and counterterrorism. This cooperation should expand further.
- Be prepared to take action if Pakistan is unable or unwilling: If Pakistan cannot or will not take decisive action against LeT, then the United States and its allies should be prepared to act in its place. Doing so may be increasingly necessary not simply to prevent a future Indo-Pakistani crisis, but more importantly to protect the United States, its citizens, its interests, and its allies.