Lashkar-e-Taiba sounds like the name of a perky, South Asian ice-dancing duo. Taibas triple lutz was the crowd pleaser, but it was Lashkars flawless camel spin that really wowed the judges.
But dont let the cute moniker fool you. Lashkar-e-Taiba is a terrorist group headquartered in Pakistan. Its a very, very, (very!) dangerous organization.
Audience shouts: How dangerous is it?
Its soooo dangerous, when she steps on a talking scale, the scale says ouch.
Im sorry. Thats how fat your mama is.
Lashkar-e-Taiba is soooo dangerous, it very nearly started a nuclear war.
In December 2001, LeT attacked Indias parliament in New Delhi. The assault left 12 dead and 22 injured. Naturally, India was furious. LeT operated freely and openly in Pakistan. India warned Pakistan: if you dont crack down on LeT, we will.
To show it was serious, India ordered a massive troop build-up along its border with Pakistan. By mid-2002, India had roughly 700,000 troops and nuclear weapons ready to hit Pakistan. In response, Pakistan pointed 300,000 troops and its own nuclear arsenal at India.
Its the closest the world has come to nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The two countries didnt back away from their ledges until autumn 2002 when weather would have made an all-out war difficult anyway.
War between India and Pakistan is not a hypothetical worry. The two countries have fought three major wars since their independence, as well as several smaller ones. The main point of contention between them is the state of Kashmir.
India and Pakistan were created in 1947, when the former British colony was divided into two nations: one majority Hindu (India), the other majority Muslim (Pakistan). Although Kashmirs population was (and is) majority Muslim, its then Hindu-leader chose to join India. Pakistans leaders, however, believe Kashmir belongs in Pakistan.
As we discussed two paragraphs ago, the two countries have fought several wars over Kashmir. Additionally, Pakistan fosters guerilla and terror groups who target India.
The most (in)famous of these groups is LeT.
Since its formation in 1993, LeT has claimed credit for several attacks in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, as well as the rest of India.
After the Indian parliament attacks, Pakistans government cracked down on LeT a bit. But not much. Pakistan banned LeT, so the group changed its name to Jamaat-ud-Dawah and carried on as usual. J-j-j-jamaat on the one!
One thing did change though. Under its new name, LeT expanded its social and charitable work. When the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir was hit with a devastating earthquake in 2005, LeTs charitable operations got aid to remote Kashmiri villages ignored by Pakistans hapless government.
LeT is appreciated by many people, with good reason.
But its still a terrorist group. In fact, evidence recently made public suggests this months terrorist assault on Mumbai (a.k.a. Bombay) was planned in LeT camps in Pakistan.
To head-off yet another potentially nuclear war with India, Pakistan cracked down on LeT even harder this time raiding some training camps and arresting several of its leaders. So far, however, theres no indication Pakistan will mount a sustained effort to thwart LeT. LeT and similar groups still have backing within Pakistans military and intelligence establishments. The raid on LeTs camps may have been little more than a PR exercise an effort to show India and the world that Pakistan is capable of handling itself.
Even if it really wanted to, its not clear that Pakistans government is actually capable of stopping LeT on its own. A secret U.N. Security Council report leaked to McClatchy newspapers says LeT already has gone global.
The terrorist group has fundraising operations in Saudi Arabia and Europe, and fighters in Iraq and the Caucasus. U.S. counterterrorism officials reportedly are worried that LeT is developing a global terrorism business plan with al-Qaeda.
A LeT alliance with al-Qaeda would explain the timing of the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan recently stepped up its anti-Taliban, anti-al-Qaeda operations along its border with Afghanistan. By goading India into threatening to strike Pakistan, the Mumbai attack forced Pakistans military to turn away from al-Qaeda and towards India.
In the end, the Mumbai attack may have nothing more than a clever, deadly diversion to help al-Qaeda.
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