The Afghan authorities on Monday informed their Pakistani counterparts about the arrest of a senior commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) who had been fighting against the ISAF and the Afghan forces in Afghanistan and wanted to conduct a high-profile terrorist attack targeting the high-security diplomatic enclave in Kabul.
The Pakistani security establishment was informed, without revealing the name of the senior Lashkar leader, that he was detained on April 15, 2013 along with a number of other insurgents during an operation in the Andar district of the Ghazni province which is a lawless area and a major infiltration point for the Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents travelling from Pakistan into Afghanistan.
The arrest has already been confirmed by an ISAF spokesman in a joint command operational update, saying that the LeT leader had planned and participated in multiple terror attacks against the coalition and the Afghan forces in Kandahar, Kunar and the Ghazni provinces.
The arrest of the Lashkar leader, who is a Pakistani national and still being interrogated, came shortly after the Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi said that Kabul was investigating the role of the of Pakistani militants in a terror attack targeting a small military base in the Kunar province on April 13, 2013 that killed 13 Afghan soldiers.
The development is expected to further damage the already tense Pak-Afghan ties as it confirms the contention of the Karzai regime that the Lashkar has expanded its operations inside Afghanistan.
Kabul alleges that the LeT has been sending fighters to Afghanistan since 2006 which was not possible without the active assistance of a preexisting network of facilitators, logisticians and local knowledge of notoriously difficult Afghan tribes and terrain.
The Haqqani network, operating in Afghanistan’s southeast, is considered to be the main channel for the Afghan endeavor of the LeT which was a launched in 1991 in the Kunar province of Afghanistan and which eventually proved to be one of the most dangerous Jehadi groups operating out of Pakistan and fighting against the Indian security forces in held Jammu & Kashmir.
According to the information shared by some senior Afghan intelligence officials with their Pakistani counterparts, the LeT has substantial presence in at least ten provinces of Afghanistan, including, Kabul, Kandahar, Kunar, Nuristan, Nangarhar, Wardak, Paktia, Laghman, Paktika and Khost.
Kabul first accused the LeT of masterminding the July 7, 2008 suicide bombing outside the Indian embassy in Kabul, killing 40 people including a serving Brigadier of the Indian Army after it transpired that the suicide bomber who carried out the car attack was Hamza Shakoor, a 22-year old Punjabi activist of the LeT who had been recruited by the Gujranwala chapter of the Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaatul Daawa (JuD) as a Jehadi operative.
Then in March 2010, the Afghan intelligence once again accused the LeT of orchestrating the deadly attack that targeted two guesthouses in Kabul. Then Afghan intelligence spokesman Sayed Ansari claimed having acquired solid evidence to prove that the attacks were carried out by a team of suicide bombers from Pakistan who spoke Urdu. An ISAF official later said that the Kabul attacks were jointly planned by the Haqqani network and the Lashkar.
The LeT was once again identified by the ISAF as operating in Afghanistan in July 2010, when it reported the capture of a Taliban commander tied to the Lashkar operations in Khugyani district of Nangarhar. In November 2010, the ISAF announced having seized the commander of a cell of approximately 50 foreign fighters which consisted of Arab and Pakistani al-Qaeda operatives, mostly members of the Lashkar and the Haqqani Network.
Then in June 2012, the ISAF forces killed two senior LeT commanders in an airstrike in Kunar. One of those killed was Khatab Shafiq, a senior LeT leader who had established multiple insurgent training camps in eastern Afghanistan. The other was Mohammad Ammar, who led an attack network in Kunar. Both the LeT commanders were linked to al-Qaeda.
The Bush administration had designated the LeT as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in December 2001. Even though Pakistani too banned the group in January 2002, the then Musharraf regime did little to shut down its vast operations and to stop its activities.
A senior leader of the Jamaatul Daawa (previously called the Lashkar-e-Taiba) confirmed on the condition of anonymity the presence of the LeT operatives in Afghanistan. But he claimed that those fighting in Afghanistan against the ISAF and Afghan forces actually belong to the break-away faction of the Lashkar — Khairun Naas (KuN) — which he said has nothing to do with the JuD. However, the fact that a delegation of the Afghanistan chapter of the LeT had called on the jailed chief operational commander of the Lashkar Commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi at the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi in the past, proves otherwise.