Ten years ago this month, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) terrorists, with support from their government of Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) handler, perpetrated sophisticated and coordinated attacks in Mumbai, Bharat, killing 164 people and wounding more than 300. While those directly responsible for the attacks were killed or executed, those who masterminded the mayhem remain free to plan future acts of terrorism.
Why? A lethal, miasmic mix of bureaucratic inertia, diplomatic dysfunction and misperception has contributed to the fact that LeT members Sajid Mir, Mazhar Iqbal, Abu Qahafa (his nom de guerre), and their ISI handler, Major Iqbal (no relation to Mazhar), roam free.
Before explaining why, some context is important. According to a 2011 indictment filed by U.S. federal prosecutors, Sajid Mir was the LeT terrorist who supervised the operatives directly involved in the Mumbai massacre and also was the LeT “handler” for American convicted terrorist David Coleman Headley. Abu Qahafa trained the LeT operatives for their deadly mission. LeT commander Mazhar Iqbal provided high-level guidance. ISI Major Iqbal supplied the funding and targeting guidance for the terrorist attack. Aside from these seven-year-old indictments, and a short stay in a Pakistani prison for Mazhar Iqbal, these mass murderers lead fairly unrestrained lives. How can this be?
Bureaucratic inertia plagues U.S. government efforts to counter LeT activities. Aside from the 2011 indictments, and the 2012 designation of Sajid Mir as a terrorist, overt U.S. efforts against the Mumbai plotters floundered because of unfounded fears that new actions could prompt the individuals to evade U.S. counterterrorism efforts or unnecessarily provoke Pakistan. With the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Mumbai attacks (Nov. 26-29), the United States should transcend the inertia by designating the remaining Mumbai plotters as terrorists and subject them, including Pakistan government official Major Iqbal, to a public Rewards for Justice (RFJ) campaign.
The United States’ RFJ program is designed to entice informants to provide information about terrorists and their accomplices. Bio-identification information of the Mumbai perpetrators such as Abu Qahafa, for example, could allow the State or Treasury departments to designate the remaining Mumbai murderers as terrorists. An RFJ announcement would complement the Justice Department’s 2011 indictment.
The Trump administration, despite its acknowledged aversion to multilateralism, should nominate the Mumbai murderers for sanction at the United Nations 1267 Committee. Success won’t be easy because of the diplomatic games China and Pakistan play at the United Nations. When I was director of the Office of Counterterrorism Finance and Designations at the State Department, we often failed to list LeT members as terrorists. China, Pakistan’s proxy on the U.N. 1267 Committee, stymied our efforts. Still, the United States should nominate the individuals for U.N. listing, even if diplomatic dysfunction and China’s parochial interests prevail.
Once the U.N. 1267 listing effort fails, the United States then could present an LeT sanctions proposal to the full U.N. Security Council for a vote, placing China in the spotlight as it defends the Mumbai murderers. If nothing else, the court of international opinion would see China’s tacit support for LeT and remember Pakistan’s direct role in the Mumbai attack.
Some policymakers perceive that groups such as LeT don’t directly affect U.S. interests such as ISIS. Others believe that LeT is contained because it is state-sponsored. That logic creates the conditions for another terrorist attack like that in Mumbai. Now is the time to disavow faulty logic. The United States and the United Nations should push for action against the Mumbai murderers — even if that action is symbolic. Renewed focus on LeT will not be in vain for the victims’ families who lost loved ones in Mumbai.
–Jason M. Blazakis
Source: The Hill
Did you find this article useful? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.