The death of Osama bin Laden has robbed Islamist militants of their biggest inspiration and al Qaeda itself has dwindled to a few hundred fighters in the region, but Pakistan remains a haven for militants with both ambition and means to strike overseas. Worse, there are signs that groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure), nurtured by Pakistan’s spy agency to advance strategic interests in India and Afghanistan, are no longer entirely under the agency’s control.
Even if the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), under intense pressure following the discovery of bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town, sought to roll up the groups, it may not be able to do so without provoking a major backlash. In Lashkar’s case, according to experts, it is not even certain if it is under the control of its own leadership, with many within pushing for greater global jihad. Several others are spinning off into independent operatives which makes it harder for security agencies to track down.
“Lashkar has become international, and no more a Pakistani outfit, per se. It has got its claws sunk in Central Asia, Afghanistan and Arabia, if not in the Maghreb (north Africa) nations. So, Pakistanis may not condone them any longer,” said a U.S.-based South Asia expert with ties to the intelligence community.
“Lashkar’s jihadi appetite cannot be whetted with Kashmir alone. They are now for the Caliphate (theocratic Islamic state) — thanks to the Saudi and other Arabian money. The question is will Pakistan’s tainted security apparatus be able to quell an organization like that? I hope they will, but I doubt it.”