Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lashkar-e-Taiba - Pakistan's Hezbollah

Via Terror Wonk Blog (Aaron Mannes) -

One group absent from the concoction of Punjabi groups joining the Pashtun Taliban rebellion is Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). Although it recruits from the same general area, the other groups are Deobandi (Pakistan’s homegrown Islamic extremists) whereas LeT is Dar Ahl Hadith, which is basically the Pakistani-offshoot of the Saudi Wahabis. The theological divisions are not enormous and there are links. But LeT appears to be more careful and disciplined in its strategic thinking. It has not been involved in significant violence within Pakistan and has not taken on the Pakistani government. It also appears to have independent funding sources (initial stake money was apparently from Saudi Arabia, but it has since developed its own fund-raising networks.) While there are far fewer Ahl Hadith adherents in Pakistan then Deobandis (or Barelvis or Shia), LeT itself is one of the larger groups – the ISI reports they have 150,000 members. LeT runs schools, hospitals, and other social services along with an extensive print media empire. In short, it is a Hezbollah-like organization with multiple facets, the ability to innovate tactically, and choose its operations strategically (like the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai.)


It is unknown if the Pakistani high command views LeT as an asset or a problem, but given all of their immediate problems and the LeT’s scrupulous avoidance of taking on the Pakistani government it is easy to see why Pakistani leaders would avoid this particular fight.

They will not be able to avoid it forever.


Aaron Mannes is the to author of "Profiles in Terror: A Guide to Middle East Terrorist Organizations" (2004) and former Director of Research at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

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