WASHINGTON (TIP): As the fifth anniversary of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks approaches, US counter-terrorism expert Bruce Riedel says the horrific Lashkar-e- Tayyeba assault, aided and abetted by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Al Qaeda, was intended to change dramatically the future of South Asia, perhaps even by provoking a war between rising nuclear powers India and Pakistan.
“Five years after Mumbai, justice has yet to be served,” writes Riedel in The Daily Beast, pointing out how Hafiz Saeed, the LeT founder and mastermind of the Mumbai plot, roams freely in Pakistan and remains “a darling of the ISI and regularly calls for more attacks on India and America”. Riedel, a former CIA analyst who has advised four US presidents on South Asia, termed the Mumbai attack the most important terror strike since 9/11, noting: “The targets were the same, Indians, Americans, and Jews, the targets of the global jihad started by al-Qaeda in the late 1990s.
I pointed this out to President-elect Barack Obama and his transition team at the time in several briefings in my role as South Asia transition director after his election (in 2008).” “We know a great deal more today than ever about the attack, its planners, and the critical American hand in the plot,” Riedel says, while going into the “most shocking” role played by Pakistani-American jihadi David Coleman Headley who helped plot the attack by mapping the targets during his five visits to Mumbai between 2005 and 2008 – and each time stopping in Pakistan on the way back to report his surveillance results to LeT and the ISI, and get new instructions.
In his confession of guilt under a plea bargain deal with the US investigators, Headley said the raid also was planned with active ISI involvement at every stage, pointing out that at each of his meetings in Pakistan, he used to meet ISI officers as well as the LeT leaders. “Sometimes the ISI gave him particular assignments separate from what the LeT asked,” Riedel notes, citing the example of the agency tasking Headley with taking photos of an Indian nuclear facility near Mumbai.