Safe havens in Pakistan played role in Mumbai attack: US

December 11th, 2008 - 11:55 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 11 (IANS) Safe havens in Pakistan played a role in allowing the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group to plan and practise for the attack on India’s financial capital of Mumbai, says the head of the US defence forces.The Nov 26 terrorist attack in Mumbai is just the latest evidence of the danger that terrorist safe havens present to the world, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said at a Pentagon news conference Wednesday.

“A significant objective in Afghanistan and Pakistan is to not have a safe haven,” Mullen, just back from a trip to Pakistan and India in the wake of Mumbai attacks, said. “And I try to pay a lot of attention to the evolution of potential safe havens.”

Asked what could be done to prevent future attacks, Mullen said: “…clearly it (Mumbai attack) was facilitated by the availability of camps and training grounds in Pakistan — and it is that ability to operate and train over an extended period of time in very sophisticated tactics that, to me, is very powerful.”

On the role that members of the Pakistani intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) may have played in the Mumbai attacks, Mullen said: “There’s a rich history here of ISI fomenting challenges, particularly in Kashmir, and everybody is aware of that.”

“We’re aware of that. The Indians are aware of that. The Pakistanis are aware of that, as is the international community writ large.

“And it’s literally that piece of the previous strategy in Pakistan which I believe has got to shift for the future, and without getting into the specifics of what was causal, certainly in a classified way, or what happened here,” he said.

The lesson in the Mumbai attacks is to not underestimate the potential of terrorists, Mullen said.

“It shouldn’t be lost on anyone how a handful of well-trained terrorists using fairly unsophisticated tools in a highly sophisticated manner had at bay an entire city and nearly brought to a boil interstate tensions between two nuclear powers,” Mullen said.

“This wasn’t just an attack on Indians or Americans or Brits or even Jews,” he continued. “It was, rather, an attack on all of us who love the sacred dignity of human life. As we witnessed in our own country seven years ago, the tactic of terrorism can be a deadly strategic weapon.”

The defence chief said he came away relieved that the two countries showed restraint, but disturbed by the way a handful of terrorists held a city of 18 million people hostage.

“I will not go so far as to say that tensions were then or are now completely eased in the wake of the Mumbai attacks,” Mullen said.

“You can imagine… the degree to which fear and uncertainty have gripped the Indian people, and just how strong was their desire for justice.”

Mullen said he sensed a real appreciation in Pakistan for the seriousness of the attacks and the growing threats of terrorism inside Pakistan.

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