LeT, the most potent of Pak-based terrorist groups: Think-tank

LeT, the most potent of Pak-based terrorist groups: Think-tank

Unlike the other Pakistan-based terrorist outfits, LeT has been successful in recruiting professionals and highly educated individuals from urban centres in Pakistan, Steve Coll, president of the New America Foundation told US lawmakers at a Congressional hearing on Wednesday.

"Perhaps the most potent of these groups in the Pakistan- Afghan region is Lashkar-e-Taiba. It's an India-focused group, but along with splinters like Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e- Jhangvi and various cells that spin off from those, they've been able to recruit very talented operatives from educated classes in urban centres.

"I think this makes them distinctive in comparison to the Afghan Taliban for example," Coll said in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

The powerful House Armed Services Committee had convened a hearing on "Al Qaeda in 2010: How should the US respond?" Appearing before the Congressional committee, Coll said LeT's ranks include scores of volunteer doctors and post-graduate professionals.

"One of these sub-networks did find the time and space to reform and plot an attempt of the Mumbai type. It could create far more destructive effects than is typically available to these single operators in small groups that al-Qaeda has been organising," he said.

"In my own judgement, I think Mumbai is actually the most serious warning in the succession of plots, along with the 2006 attempted planes bombing conspiracy in Britain, simply because of its scale and what it tells you about the geographical space and the time and unmolested time that the Mumbai organisers had to carry off a very creative and complicated attack," Coll said.

He said there is a risk that the US should be mindful of even though it doesn't necessarily involve the direct targeting of the US homeland.

Coll said that in a strategic or global sense, al-Qaeda seems to be in the process of defeating and isolating itself.

"Its political isolation in the Muslim world has set the stage for the US and allied governments with persistence and concentrated effort to finally destroy central al-Qaeda's leadership along the Afghan- Pakistan border," he said.

Responding to a question, Coll said the single-most important goal ought to be to create conditions in which Pakistan stabilises and is able and increasingly willing to take the steps necessary to eliminate extremist ideology from Pakistani soil and to stop using extremist groups as a proxy for the country's regional foreign policy goals.

"In order to create conditions for Pakistan to stabilise in that way, it's going to be necessary -- at least in the medium run -- to create conditions for normalisation between India and Pakistan so that they don't embark on a nuclear arms race that only exacerbates the dangers to the entire world of a nuclear arsenal in Pakistan that's vulnerable to an insider threat over time," Coll said.

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