LeT fighters found in Afghan; Gen says its expanding influence

General Mohammad Zaman Mahmoodzai, head of Afghanistan's border security force, has said there is proof of the nominally Kashmir-oriented group's growing involvement in Afghanistan, confirming fears voiced by American intelligence community.

General Mahmoodzai told Times magazine that of the 40-50 fighters killed in an hours-long gun battle recently in Afghanistan, nearly a quarter were carrying documents implicating them as members of the LeT.

"The trend is confirmed by US military officials, who say that well-trained LeT fighters are bringing deadlier tools and tactics to the war's second-fiercest front," it said.

The magazine said LeT's presence in Afghanistan has coincided with mounting Pakistani concerns that India's influence in Kabul represents an Indian strategy of encirclement.

"Originally nurtured by Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), as a proxy force to drive India out of Kashmir, the LeT has since raised its profile with spectacular strikes on India's parliament and commercial capital," it said.

Stephen Tankel, a US-based analyst and author of the book 'Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba,' told Time that Lashkar always had ambitions beyond the region and was never really a Kashmir-centric organisation.

He said while some of the fighters of the group are motivated by anti-Indian sentiment, others want to wage war against America.

"Because of increased Indian influence in the government of post-Taliban Afghanistan, these jihadist desires converge. And while India remains its main enemy, anti-Western activity by the LeT is nothing new -— as the arrest of operatives as far away as the United States shows," he said.

"What we're seeing now is an acceleration of trends that have been in place... rather than Lashkar trying to go in a new direction," Tankel said.

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