Under questioning from Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today refused to take an aggressive stance against the Pakistani government for its support of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist group during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Royce serves as the Chairman of the Committee's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.
Specifically, Royce asked that security assistance to Pakistan be based upon its efforts to crackdown on LeT, the group responsible for the days-long rampage in Mumbai, India in 2008. Royce pointed to reports that the U.S. was conditioning security assistance to Pakistan based upon a set of U.S. objectives, and asked that Pakistan's dismantling of LeT be a part of that priority list. To underscore the severity of the point, Royce noted that if left unchecked, the LeT could spark conflict between the India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed rivals. This recommendation came out of a recent hearing held by Royce on U.S.-India counterterrorism cooperation.
Secretary Clinton responded that she did "not want to commit at this time to taking such a path," citing unspecified "implications," and instead simply stated that the Administration continues to "raise" LeT with Pakistani officials.
Speaking after the hearing, Royce lamented the lackluster response:
"LeT has evolved from a group focused on Kashmir into one with global ambitions. It has been described as the "Hezbollah of South Asia,' and with nearly 2,000 facilities in Pakistan, it has been closely linked to the Pakistani government. There have been several LeT members charged in the United States.
"We don't have the time to just continue "raising' the issue. The Mumbai attacks were nearly three years ago. The time for tough action is now. Security in South Asia -- and the security of the United States-- demand it."
NOTE: Last month, Chairman Royce wrote to Secretary Clinton urging this action. The full text of the letter is below.
September 22, 2011
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Madam Secretary:
We are writing to express our belief that the United States must condition security assistance to Pakistan based upon its actions with respect to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group responsible for the days-long Mumbai rampage in 2008. At a recent Subcommittee hearing on U.S.-India counterterrorism cooperation, this policy change was strongly recommended by experts.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. has begun to condition the award of security assistance to Pakistan on a "secret scorecard" of U.S. objectives. If accurate, this is a welcomed change from past policies, which granted Pakistan with billions of dollars in U.S. aid, no matter which path the government pursued. Our policy toward Pakistan over the past decade has not diminished the terrorism threat emanating from that troubled country.
According to the Journal's reporting, Washington has told Islamabad that future security assistance hinges on progress in four areas: Pakistani cooperation in exploiting the bin Laden compound; Pakistani cooperation with the war in Afghanistan; Pakistani cooperation with the U.S. in conducting joint counterterrorism operations; and cooperation in improving the overall tone in bilateral relations.
Although specific details of each area are classified, it does not seem from this reporting that the U.S. has placed emphasis on Pakistan making further progress on fully investigating and prosecuting the Mumbai attackers or dismantling LeT in this "scorecard." We believe that this is a strategic mistake, especially with the threat from LeT continuing to grow.
Lashkar-e-Taiba has evolved from a group focused on Kashmir into one with global ambitions. At a May hearing of our Subcommittee, one prominent terrorism expert noted the "possibility of another major Pakistani jihadi attack in India." This witness went on to describe LeT as the "Hezbollah of South Asia," and noted it had "almost a state-sponsored relationship with the government" of Pakistan. This expert noted that LeT employed up to 2,000 facilities in Pakistan and has a "presence throughout the world that al-Qaeda could only dream of."
Indeed, last year the Director of National Intelligence testified to Congress that LeT is "becoming more of a direct threat" and is "placing Western targets in Europe in its sights." Reportedly, a captured LeT laptop contained a list of 320 potential targets, many believed to be outside India. Several individuals have been charged in the United States for connections to the terrorist group.
We agree with you that the steps Pakistan has taken with respect to LeT have been woefully inadequate. On a recent trip to India, you rightfully called on Pakistan to prosecute the perpetrators of these attacks "transparently, fully and urgently." Regrettably, Pakistan has been ignoring these calls, and without a change in our aid policy, this step appears to be very unlikely.
Further, not placing Pakistan's handling of LeT on this "scorecard" will only reinforce the perception in New Delhi that the U.S. views jihadist groups targeting India as less consequential than al-Qaeda. This hampers counterterrorism cooperation with India, which serves to protect the United States. As one witnessed testified before our Subcommittee, "the U.S. cannot allow its national security to be held hostage by nearly two decades of unfulfilled expectations in Pakistan." Imposing this condition on Pakistan is all the more important given the risk of another LeT attack on India leading to armed conflict with grave consequences.
We strongly urge you to make U.S. security assistance to Pakistan conditioned upon its efforts to dismantle the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant network.
EDWARD R. ROYCE
Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade
Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade