- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Treasury Department on Thursday acted against three senior members of Pakistan-based terrorist groups that have been behind attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, including the kidnapping and beheading of a U.S. journalist.

The Treasury action forbids Americans from engaging with the militants and has frozen assets they hold under U.S. jurisdiction.

The three terrorists are: Amanullah Afridi, senior leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ); Mati ur-Rehman, LeJ’s chief operational commander; and Abdul Rauf Azhar, a senior leader in Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

Afridi and Rehman were targeted for acting for or on behalf of LeJ and al Qaeda. Azhar was designated for acting for or on behalf of JeM.

“All three of today’s targets are actively involved in leading or planning operations on behalf of these dangerous terrorist organizations,” said Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

LeJ has been involved in many attacks in Pakistan and was behind the abduction and slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. JeM has conducted attacks against India and Afghanistan.

The U.S. has designated both groups as foreign terrorist organizations.

Diplomatic cables leaked by the website WikiLeaks this week revealed U.S. frustration at its inability to persuade Pakistan to cut its ties to militant groups.

Some officials in Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), “continue to maintain ties with a wide array of extremist organizations, in particular the Taliban, LeT and other extremist organizations,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote in December 2009.

Mrs. Clinton was referring to Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based group that was behind the attacks on Mumbai in 2008. Six Americans were among the 166 people killed in those attacks.

In another cable, Anne Patterson, who was at the time U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, wrote in a secret review of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy in September 2009 that there was “no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance … as sufficient compensation for abandoning support for these groups, which it sees as an important part of its national security apparatus against India.”

Four groups are named in the cables: LeT, the Afghan Taliban, and the Haqqani and Hekmatyar networks.

Mrs. Patterson said warmer U.S.-India relations “feeds Pakistani establishment paranoia and pushes them closer to both Afghan and Kashmir focused terrorist groups.”

Mrs. Patterson suggested that the only way to end Pakistani support for anti-India militant groups is to resolve the dispute over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir and reassess India’s role in Afghanistan.

She said resolving the Kashmir conflict “would dramatically improve the situation.”

“We need to reassess Indian involvement in Afghanistan and our own policies towards India, including the growing military relationship through sizeable conventional arms sales, as all of this feeds Pakistani establishment paranoia and pushes them closer to both Afghan and Kashmir-focused terrorist groups while reinforcing doubts about U.S. intentions,” Mrs. Patterson said.

India is firmly opposed to third-party mediation in the Kashmir dispute and its role in Afghanistan has been a source of tension with Pakistan.

U.S. officials leaned on Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, a former director of the ISI, to end support for militant groups operating from Pakistani soil.

“The biggest single message Kayani should hear in Washington is that this support must end,” according to one cable from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

Afridi has prepared and provided suicide jackets for al Qaeda operations, trained suicide bombers and trained the assassin of Pakistani cleric Allama Hassan Turabi.

Rehman was linked to the August 2006 plot to destroy U.S.-bound British aircraft.

He also has been implicated in plots or attacks against a former Pakistani president, a former Pakistani prime minister, and the U.S. Consulate in Karachi.

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