As the first India-Pakistan Joint Mechanism on Terrorism (JMT) concluded its first meeting at Islamabad, the most anti-India organization, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) seems to be operating with impunity and continues to spew venom on the peace-process. LeT Chief Hafiz Saeed is a free man allowed addressing meetings, inciting violence, and preaching hatred.
In an editorial carried on Jamat-ul-Dawa website, Saeed was particularly critical of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's "innovating suggestions regarding Kashmir." Saeed says that Musharraf is "the sole supporter" of these plans and "no one else, whether in Pakistan, or in Kashmir, agrees with him on this issue" and called them "regurgitated theories" of American think tanks. Saeed says that only the "Kashmiri mujahideen" are the "real party" and only their opinion matter.
It is exactly this sort of freedom to espouse violence and operate with impunity that Musharraf gives jihadi forces that is causing concern in Washington. U.S. National Intelligence Director Admiral Mike McConnell told a Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill that the next attack on the U.S. will "most likely would be planned and come out of the leadership in Pakistan." McConnell says that Musharraf is "wrestling" with harsher action to curb al Qaeda camps given upcoming elections. According to him, the al Qaeda top leadership live in the North West Frontier Province trying to "re-establish and rebuild and to establish training camps" after suffering a "major blow" from the U.S. forces.
The most damaging part of this testimony is the U.S. admission that it does see Islamabad as having any authority over the region. McConnell says the region "has never been governed by any power". It is not clear if this is a setup for hot pursuit of terrorists from Afghanistan into Pakistan or just an admission that Islamabad has no control in this area. If it is the latter, Washington is basically saying that Musharraf has no competence to deal with the al Qaeda operating from this region. If it is a former, the U.S. will now have diplomatic cover to pursue terrorists from Afghanistan. Pakistan has already severely objected to a reported statement by a U.S. official that the coalition forces have right of hot pursuit. Islamabad has also sharply denied presence of terrorists camps within its borders-a denial that no one believes.
But White House politicians seem to be at odds with what its intelligence personnel are saying. They fear that isolation of Pakistan will drive that country into the hands of terrorists and would rather gloss over this detail for now. McConnell repeated earlier assertions by U.S. intelligence officials that Pakistan can "do more" and that "prospects for eliminating the Taliban threat appear dim so long as the sanctuary remains in Pakistan." He also observed that "there are no encouraging signs that Pakistan is eliminating" this threat.
Most of the blame is placed on a spurious deal that Islamabad entered with so-called tribal elders that effectively ceded control of the area to the terrorists. Defense Intelligence Agency Head Lt. General Michael Maples testified that the tribes have not honored most of the "peace deal" and that al Qaeda's training and related capabilities increased as a result of the deal. Many think tanks in the U.S. now openly admit that Musharraf's usefulness to Washington may have "run its course."