`LeT out to fill gap of diminished al-Qaida`

US has said after 26/11 attacks, LeT was out to "fill the gap" created by "diminished al-Qaeda".

New Delhi: The US on Thursday said the Mumbai
attacks had shown that Lashkar-e-Taiba was out to "fill the
gap" created by a "diminished al-Qaeda" and a "decisive"
action was needed from all countries of South Asia including
Pakistan to defeat it.

US Coordinator on Counter-Terrorism Dan Benjamin said
the aim of securing the world would remain incomplete unless
LeT is defeated.
"I have said that we will not achieve our security
aims if this group (LeT), with thousands of men under arms (is
active)... We could see in Mumbai attacks, the target was set
directly out of Bin Laden`s book, filling the gap created by a
diminished Al Qaeda," Benjamin said at a function here.

"We should be clear that terrorist threat in South
Asia requires decisive counter-terrorism efforts by all
countries of the region," Benjamin added.

He said his country was not just focussing on Al Qaeda
"but also against groups which are growing and have global
reach like LeT".

The US official said the US and allied forces have made
important gains against Al Qaeda but socio-political and
economic issues were to be addressed to counter the challenge
thrown by terrorism.

Benjamin rejected the contention by some sections in
Pakistan that Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD) was a humanitarian group.

"If any organisation has a political and a humanitarian
as well as as a terrorist wing, then it is entirely a
terrorist group, like the LeT and its social service wing, the
Jamat-ud-Dawa," the US official said.

He said one of the major challenges was to pre-empt
such groups providing essential social services in countries
which have insufficient resources.

Contending that Pakistan had "suffered tremendously"
due to terrorism, he said the US will continue to support the
country in strengthening its democratic institutions, economic
growth and defeat extremists.
"Pakistan has suffered tremendously from terrorism in
recent years and lost thousands of lives in the last couple of
years alone. With our cooperation their performance in Swat
demonstrates that its continuing to beat back militancy,"
Benjamin said.

He said that while seeking cooperation of all nations
in the South Asian region, "we all need to avoid the kind of
thinking that working with one country for countering
terrorism is not at the expense of the other nation."

Citing "lot of history" in South Asia, he said one has
to be mindful of it but "cannot be prisoners to it as we deal
with a new kind of threat precisely because your success will
depend on how well you work together".

He also insisted that India was in the loop in the US`
Af-Pak policy. "India is not out of the process. It is very
much involved (in the Af-Pak process)."

"Counter terrorism is one of the central pillars of
our relations with India because both nations have paid the
price of terrorism, which was recently seen in Pune blasts
which happened a few weeks back," Benjamin said.

He hailed India`s effort to seek cooperation from
Pakistan for countering terrorism and noted that Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh has "shown real interest in a stable
and secure Pakistan."

The US counter-terrorism official said his country
believes that "there are no easy superpower solutions to
terrorism" and that the Obama administration is focussing on
capacity building with its partners in South Asia.

On Afghanistan, he said the US` commitment there will
remain firm and that "the transition will be executed
responsibly, taking into account the condition on the ground".

Referring to Singh`s recent Washington visit, Benjamin
said that both the countries "concluded a pathbreaking MoU in
increasing cooperation in 16 different areas".

Bernd Mutzelburg, German special envoy for Afghanistan
and Pakistan said the real insurgency in Afghanistan is the
Taliban insurgency and not al-Qaeda.

"More than Al Qaeda it is the Taliban, which has been
a national insurgency in Afghanistan. Taliban themselves have
said that they always had a national agenda in Afghanistan
and they never intended to transport to any neighbouring
country. However at the same time they have refrained from
distancing themselves from Al Qaeda for which they have been
punished hard," Mutzelburg said.

Mutzelburg said if Afghanistan becomes the basis of
Islamic fundamentalism, then this could be a threat to both
India and Pakistan.

The German official said that for countering terrorism
in South Asia, India along with Pakistan and Iran would have
to enter into a kind of a regional arrangement, which could
also be backed by China, Russia and NATO.