Are Al Qaeda's fingerprints on the Mumbai attack?
The consequences could definitely be in their favor.
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Questions linger. Were there positioned aides who reported that some security measures at hotels had been relaxed? How could the attackers carry in enough weaponry, explosives, and provisions to hold off security forces for three days? How could the attackers locate so swiftly, and simultaneously, widespread targets in a city of 13 million people? How could they pinpoint a Jewish community center of which most citizens of the city were unaware?Skip to next paragraph
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Over the years there have been reports of Al Qaeda and Taliban cooperation with elements of the Pakistani intelligence service and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Are Al Qaeda's fingerprints on the Mumbai operation? The hunt by the gunmen specifically for American, British, and Jewish victims smacks more of an Al Qaeda agenda, than that of a bunch of militants dabbling in the politics of Kashmir. An operation that would torpedo rapprochement between India and Pakistan, and maybe draw Pakistani soldiers away from hunting down Al Qaeda and Taliban elements along the Afghan border, would surely win the approval of Osama bin Laden.
The attack on Mumbai, killing more than 170 people, has at least temporarily halted the efforts of Pakistan's new president, Asif Ali Zardari, to put hostility between Pakistan and India behind the two countries. He has been urging better relations between the two nuclear-armed nations and recently proposed a "no first nuclear strike" policy with India.
President Bush has sent US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region to calm tempers, but the best she can likely do in the immediate future is to dissuade the two nations from going to war. Indians are likening the Mumbai assault to the 9/11 attack in the US. Their prime minister, Manmohan Singh has been increasingly sharp, warning that there would be a "cost" to "our neighbors" (read: Pakistan) if it turns out the attack was launched from their territory. An accord on Kashmir, which has eluded India and Pakistan for decades, is thus unlikely. So, in this climate, is an early resumption of confidence-building between the two governments.
Clearly, the Obama administration will handle a continuing crisis. India is an important ally of the US, a democracy emerging as a powerful economic force. Pakistan is a delicate democracy, a pivotal force in the war against Al Qaeda. Both have nuclear weapons. Both must be nurtured by the US. Pakistan, a non-Arab Muslim country, and India, a Hindu, non-Arab country that contains more than 150 million Muslims, can be significant examples for the spread of freedom in the Arab world.
Both must be added to the incoming president's "to do" list. Both must be treated with urgency.