While al Qaeda has become the most well- known international terrorist organization, it is not the most successful. That title goes to less well known regional terrorist organizations. The most successful of these has been Pakistani Islamic terror group Lashkar I Toiba (LeT). While al Qaeda has been reduced to a franchising operation, LeT is a real organization with separate departments for recruiting, fund raising, training, and operations.
According to Srategy Page the LeT is, like the Taliban, a creation of the Pakistani ISI (Inter Service Intelligence agency). ISI is part of the army and performs some of the same functions as the American CIA and British MI6. This organization has long been a power unto itself, with its own agenda and many members who support Islamic radicalism. In 2008, the civilian government (that replaced nine years of military dictatorship) sought to disband the political wing of the ISI. This section was believed to be largely responsible for Pakistani support of Islamic, or simply Pakistani, terrorist operations in Afghanistan and India, as well as support for Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan itself. The political wing has also served as a domestic spying operation whenever the military was running the country (which is more than half the time). That effort failed, as did several previous attempts to reform this espionage agency.
ISI has long supported Islamic terrorists. Islamic radicals have been operating openly in the ISI for three decades and were put there by the government in the late 1970s, when it was decided that Islamic conservatism was the solution for Pakistan’s problems (corruption and religious/ethnic conflicts).
LeT (and several similar outfits) was created to carry out terror attacks in India, while the Taliban was created to give Pakistan more influence over what happened in Afghanistan. While the Taliban, or part of it, turned against Pakistan, LeT did not and has quietly grown into a regional Islamic terrorist organization directly responsible for far more death and destruction than al Qaeda. While al Qaeda is homeless and tends to franchise its name, LeT has a secure base within Pakistan and the protection of ISI and the Pakistani military. This allows LeT to recruit and train operatives and plan and carry out terror attacks in India and, more recently, in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and a growing list of other countries. One thing that keeps LeT safe from attack by the U.S. and other Western counter-terror organizations is its decision to not attack Western targets or get too involved in international terrorism. But for India and Afghanistan, LeT is a major source of death and destruction. The ISI and Pakistani military deny any involvement with LeT, despite the growing pile of evidence otherwise.
For a long time the major source of Islamic terrorism in India has been the Pakistani backed terror campaign to drive Indians, particularly non-Moslem Indians, out of the disputed, by India and Pakistan, province of Kashmir (actually Jammu-Kashmir, as the lower portion of the state, Jammu, is largely Hindu). Kashmir, on the other side of a mountain range from Jammu, is largely Moslem and Pakistan believes all of Kashmir (Pakistan invaded and seized northern Kashmir in the late 1940s) should be theirs. Back in the late 1970s, Pakistan decided that terrorism was the only practical way to get Kashmir back. India was more powerful militarily and had beaten Pakistan in every war between them. Groups like LeT used bases and training camps in Pakistani Kashmir to train and send terrorists across the border into Indian Kashmir. These ISI groups have also been responsible for about two-thirds of the deaths from Islamic terrorism in the rest of India.
There are several separate terrorist groups operating in Kashmir. In addition to LeT, there is Jaish-e-Muhammad, Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami, and Harakat ul-Mujahedeen (the last two formerly operated in Afghanistan against the Russians during the 1980s). There have been several thousand Islamic terrorists active in Kashmir (on both sides of the border) since the late 1980s. The numbers are kept down by the deaths of most terrorists who get into Indian Kashmir. The Pakistani based terrorists have also caused the growth of similar, but much smaller, groups inside India (which has 150 million Moslems). The Kashmir terrorism campaign has largely failed, and the number of active terrorists there has been dwindling over the past decade. This has apparently played a part in LeT carrying out attacks elsewhere in India.
Only some parts of the Pakistani government back these terrorists, as most Pakistanis realize that too much Pakistani based Islamic terrorism inside India could trigger a major war with India. Since both nations now have nuclear weapons, this could get very ugly. The Islamic terrorists don’t care, as they are on a Mission From God and whatever happens is God’s Will.
It’s interesting that many LeT leaders come from the same middle class neighbor hoods that produce many of the army and ISI officers that back Islamic terrorism. The connections between ISI and Islamic terror groups are numerous, and this intelligence organization has become a major threat to Pakistani democracy and Pakistan itself.