Lashkar emerging as global threat: US military chief (Lead)

July 22nd, 2010 - 9:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama New Delhi/Washington, July 22 (IANS) The US’ top military commander, Admiral Michael Mullen, Thursday said he was concerned that Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror outfit, blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attack, was emerging as a “larger, regional and global threat”.
Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, made the comment as he began his two-day trip to New Delhi for expanding defence cooperation between the two countries ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit in November. He said counterterrorism would be the focus of his talks with Indian leaders.

Mullen is expected to hold parleys with Defence Minister A.K. Antony, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and the top Indian military brass Friday.

He told reporters travelling with him to India that he was particularly concerned about the LeT and how Pakistan-based terror outfits could provoke another conflict between the two nuclear armed nations.

“I see them (terrorists) starting to emerge as a larger, regional, global threat… One of the things that struck me then and is still a great concern is how 10 terrorists could drive two nuclear-armed nations closer to conflict,” Mullen was quoted as saying by the US Defence Department.

“One of the things I’ve watched in the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area), in the region between Pakistan and in Afghanistan is the merging of these terrorist organisations,” he said.

Mullen, who was in New Delhi a few days after the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai, said he was impressed by Indian restraint during and immediately after the attack.

Counterterrorism, he said, will be the main discussion with Indian leaders.

“The US and India have shared interests that are tied specifically to counterterrorism,” he said. “We have both been attacked and lost precious citizens.”

Working together to blunt and to end the terrorist threat is one impetus to working together, he said, adding Indian military leaders “are also very focused on how we share what we have learned”.

The military-to-military relationship between the US and India has grown dramatically in the past 20 years, Mullen said, and wanted to keep the process on track.

On Afghanistan, he said he supported Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s efforts to present his country with a timetable for taking over from the NATO-led force.

“He as a leader has to send a message to his people that this is what we’re shooting for,” Mullen said.

Karzai’s 2014 deadline as a goal for a security handover won him backing from dozens of countries at an international conference in Kabul this week.

Mullen will follow his visit to India with one to Pakistan as the US has military-to-military contacts with both countries.

While the US military is not a bridge between the two nations, “it is important that we remain engaged,” Mullen said.

“Certainly there is an opportunity to have discussions across the region and we will work our way through to a much more stable future.”

His Indian counterpart Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik is hosting Mullen’s visit to India.

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