Since its creation 15 years ago, the Lashkar-e-Taiba has been linked to the ISI, the formidable Inter-Services Intelligence agency that operates like a state within a state in Pakistan. Obviously, this link is not widely publicized. However, from the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl to the July 2005 attack on the Ayodhya Hindu temple in Uttar Pradesh, there is abundant evidence that the jihadist wing of the ISI has assisted the Lashkar-e-Taiba in the planning and financing of various operations.
Worse yet, the Lashkar-e-Taiba is, as I discovered while researching and reporting my book on Daniel Pearl, a group of which A.Q. Khan, the inventor of Pakistan's atomic bomb, was a longtime friend. Mr. Khan, one may recall, spent a good 15 years trafficking in nuclear secrets with Lybia, North Korea, Iran and, perhaps, al Qaeda, before confessing his guilt in early 2004. Later pardoned by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Mr. Khan remains perfectly free to travel within Pakistan, as he was just admitted this Monday, under the protection of the ISI, to the most elite hospital in Karachi.
No, this is not a dream -- it is reality. Pakistan is home to a man both father of his country's nuclear program and known sympathizer of an Islamist group whose latest demonstration has netted at least 188 dead and several hundred wounded.
The Lashkar-e-Taiba is, ultimately, one of the constitutive elements of what is conventionally called al Qaeda. For too long we've told ourselves that al Qaeda no longer exists except as a brand; that it is only a pure signifier, "franchised" by local organizations independent of one another. Yet there indeed exists in our world what Osama bin Laden called the "International Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders," which is like a constellation of atoms aggregated around a central nucleus. These atoms find themselves, for the most part, clustered in this new zone of tempests that forms the whole of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
From today's Wall Street Journal: