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With Al Qaeda weakened, US warns about other Pakistani terror groups

While these groups have links with Al Qaeda, the bigger danger to the US is their ability to trigger a major crisis for nuclear-armed Pakistan, including a war with India.

By Staff writer / May 19, 2011

In this Jan. 4 photo, Hafiz Saeed, the leader of a banned Islamic group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an alias of the proscribed Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group, addresses a rally against India and the United States in Lahore, Pakistan.

K.M.Chaudary/AP/File

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With Osama bin Laden dead, and only small numbers of Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, some US leaders are talking up the threat of other militant outfits in the region. Such talk appears aimed at convincing critics why significant US forces must remain in the region at a time of war fatigue.

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“The key is making sure there are no safe havens for those transnational terrorist groups in Afghanistan,” Gen. David Petraeus told a reporter days after Mr. bin Laden’s death.

By tallying up groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, and the Haqqani Network, the number of “transnational terrorists” rises from just a few hundred Al Qaeda to thousands of violent extremists to keep an eye on.

These three groups, while they have links with Al Qaeda, have yet to demonstrate much determination and success at striking in the US or Europe. But they could pose a present danger to the US for their ability to trigger a major crisis for nuclear-armed Pakistan, including a war with India.

“We have concerns about them attacking India because that’s the most likely way that we are going to get an India-Pakistan crisis,” says C. Christine Fair, a regional expert at Georgetown University in Washington.

When it comes to sending operatives to hit targets in the West, “I wouldn’t say we’ve seen a lot of stellar capability from these guys,” she adds. But she does worry about their ability to recruit and train members of the Pakistani diaspora living in the West.

The incidents that have most raised international concerns about groups aside from Al Qaeda are the 2008 Mumbai attacks, efforts to attack a Danish newspaper, and the attempted bombing of Times Square.

Who are the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) ?

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistani group historically focused on India, chose targets in the Mumbai massacre that were designed to kill not just Indians but Jews and Westerners. Adding to the international dimension, an American named David Headley traveled to Mumbai to plan the attack for the group.

According to Mr. Headley, the LeT also paid for him to travel to Denmark to plan an attack on a newspaper there. But Pakistan’s spy agency known as the ISI pressured the group to shelve the attack.

“That LeT’s leadership contemplated an attack against Denmark is significant, but so too is the fact that it remained susceptible to ISI pressure,” writes LeT expert Stephen Tankel for the New America Foundation.

While most experts see the LeT as focused on India and Kashmir, many worry that another major attack against India would prompt a military conflict requiring US intervention.

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