The US considers Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as one of the greatest threats to it and allied forces in war-torn Afghanistan, where at least 300 fighters from the terror group are active, a Pentagon report has said.
The LeT, designated a global terror organization by the US and the UN, was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 166 people. Among the 20 prominent terrorist organizations active in Afghanistan, LeT ranks fifth in terms of fighters along with al Qaeda and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, stated the Pentagon report, ‘Lead Inspector General for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel’, for the quarter ending March 31.
The report said the Department of Defense “identified the Haqqani Network, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba as groups that present the greatest threat to US and allied forces in Afghanistan”.
The report also stated that an estimated 300 LeT and 1,000 Islamic Emirate High Council operatives are active in the war-torn country. The ISIS-K, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and Haqqani network with an estimated 3,000-5,000 fighters each top the list of terrorist groups active in Afghanistan, it said. The LeT, formed in the 1980s, is one of the largest terror groups currently operating from Pakistani soil.
In December 2001, the Department of State designated LeT as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. In May 2005, the United Nations (UN) 1267 Sanctions Committee added LeT to the Consolidated UN Security Council Sanctions List. Pakistan banned LeT in 2002, but the group continued to operate through its front organizations – Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF).
Pakistan was forced to ban these groups this year amid intense global pressure to rein in the terror groups following the Pulwama terror attack. Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) also put pressure on Pakistan to curb money laundering and terrorism financing. Pakistan was put on the grey list by the FATF in June 2018, and was warned that it may further be downgraded if it does not act against terror groups operating from its soil.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly accused Pakistan of providing “safe haven” to terrorists and asked Islamabad to rein in the terror groups operating from its soil. Iran and Afghanistan also accuse Pakistan of providing support to terror groups to carry out attacks in the neighboring countries.