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“In terms of organizational capability, LeT is more robust than the central al Qaeda organization,” said Stephen Tankel, author of the forthcoming book “Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba.”

Mr. Tankel said there is concern about LeT’s “potential role as a trainer or facilitator, particularly given its transnational networks as well as ability to act as a gateway to al Qaeda.”

“Furthermore, what is also troubling is the fact that even if LeT’s leadership can be deterred from directly striking the U.S., it’s questionable whether the same can be said for the myriad operatives that make up its transnational networks,” he said.

The Pakistani court’s decision also risks straining Pakistan’s fragile relationship with India, which considers Saeed one of the masterminds of the Mumbai attacks. Indian officials have expressed concern that the cleric has been allowed to freely stir up anti-India sentiments at rallies in Pakistan.

Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said the court’s decision demonstrates that there is “little appetite in Islamabad to shut down LeT activities.”

“If the Pakistani leadership was serious about cracking down on LeT, we would see them closing training facilities, restricting Hafeez Mohammad Saeed’s ability to hold public rallies, and fully prosecuting those found guilty of involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks,” Ms. Curtis said.

In November, Mr. Obama sent a letter to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari urging Pakistani institutions to cut ties with terrorist groups. Mr. Obama specifically mentioned LeT, along with al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and Tehrik-e-Taliban.

The Pakistani government banned LeT in 2002, but Saeed now heads Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charity that Western officials say is a front for LeT.

The Bush administration branded LeT a foreign terrorist organization soon after the group attacked the Indian Parliament in New Delhi on Dec. 13, 2001. In 2002, the nexus between al Qaeda and LeT was exposed with the capture of al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, the accused mastermind of the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, who was found at an LeT safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

Analysts and Western officials say LeT surpasses al Qaeda in its capacity for recruitment and fundraising.

U.S. officials have raised their concerns about the activities of LeT and Mr. Saeed in meetings with their Pakistani counterparts.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia held a hearing on LeT’s growing ambitions in March. It was the first congressional hearing specifically devoted to the group.

The panel’s chairman, Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, New York Democrat, said of LeT: “This group of savages needs to be crushed. … We’re not doing it, and we’re not effectively leading a global effort to do it. And we’re going to regret this mistake. We’re going to regret it bitterly.”

Ms. Curtis said LeT should be seen as part of the al Qaeda network and so the threat from the group should be met “with the same seriousness and determination as the U.S. is fighting al Qaeda.”

“While LeT may have focused its attacks primarily against India in the 1990s, it is clear that the LeT is developing a broader pan-Islamist agenda and that its future attacks will almost undoubtedly involve Western facilities and citizens,” Ms. Curtis said.