March 30, 2010
According to a top US military official, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Pakistani terrorist organization, is quickly expanding operations to South Asian countries other than India – including Nepal.
LeT, which was responsible for the Mumbai attack in 2008, is an issue of concern for the Obama Administration, said Admiral Robert Willard, Commander of the US Pacific Command in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 26, 2010.
In his opening statement, Admiral Willard said, “The Asia Pacific region is quickly becoming the strategic nexus of the globe due to its economic expansion and great potential.”
In regard to Nepal, the Admiral reported, "Right now our concern is the movement of Lashkar-e Taiba, the terrorist group that emanates from Pakistan that was responsible for the Mumbai attacks in India, and specifically their positioning in Bangladesh and Nepal, the Maldives and Sri Lanka."
Senator George Lemieux asked about the dynamics of the Indo-American partnership in combating LeT terrorism.
Admiral Willard’s response: “We are working very closely with the Indians and we are working within our own community to develop the necessary plans to counter that particular terrorist group as they migrate into the Asia Pacific region.”
Senator Lemieux: “Are they a regional threat or just a threat to India?”
Admiral Willard: "Right now, we're attempting to develop a further understanding of the extent to which they're a regional threat. If you'll recall, Lashkar-e-Taiba was evidenced in Chicago with the arrest of Headley. … The extent of that influence is what we're taking under study."
[David Coleman Headley is a Chicago-based Pakistani American, who conspired with Lashkar-e-Taiba and Pakistani ex-military officers to launch the 2008 Mumbai attacks. On March 23, 2010, Headley pleaded guilty to making surveillance videos in preparation for the siege of India's financial capital and to involvement in a plot to attack a Danish newspaper over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. On March 26, the US announced that Indian investigators will be able to question Headley.]
Responding to a question from Senator Daniel Akaka, Willard said “…the military-to-military relationship with India has been evolving for most of the last decade and has also started at the tactical level service-to-service type interaction.
Currently, Willard said that the United States and India are holding strategic-level discussions and "very complex military discussions regarding our respective advancements and our future in terms of exercising together".
As foreign scrutiny intensifies, Nepali politicians who underplay the Pakistani connection would do well to take note.