Gates: Syn­di­cate Threat­ens to Desta­bi­lize South Asia

By Don­na Miles
Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

NEW DELHI, An al-Qai­da-backed ter­ror syn­di­cate is focused on desta­bi­liz­ing South Asia and stok­ing ten­sions between India and Afghanistan, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates told reporters yes­ter­day.

Speak­ing at a news con­fer­ence after meet­ings with Indi­an lead­ers, Gates empha­sized “the mag­ni­tude of the threat” the region faces in light of al-Qai­da, Tal­iban, Tehrik-e-Tal­iban and Lashkar-e-Tai­ba ele­ments, all work­ing toward com­mon goals.

Groups oper­at­ing under the al-Qai­da umbrel­la in Pakistan’s North­west Fron­tier Province, prob­a­bly in North Waziris­tan, are orches­trat­ing attacks using one ele­ment in Afghanistan, he said. Mean­while, anoth­er ele­ment of the Tal­iban in Pak­istan is being used to attack tar­gets there, desta­bi­liz­ing the region. At the same time, Lashkar-e-Tai­ba, the sep­a­ratist group blamed for the 2008 attacks in Mum­bai, India, is plan­ning new attacks in India.

“It’s a very com­pli­cat­ed sit­u­a­tion. I think it’s very dan­ger­ous for the region as a whole,” Gates said. “I also think it’s dan­ger­ous to sin­gle out any one of these groups and say if we could beat that group that will solve the prob­lem — because they are, in effect, a syn­di­cate of ter­ror­ist oper­a­tors intend­ing to desta­bi­lize this entire region.

“What we see is that the suc­cess of any one of these groups leads to new capa­bil­i­ties and new rep­u­ta­tion for all,” he con­tin­ued. “A vic­to­ry for one is a vic­to­ry for all.”

Gates said he talked with the Indi­an lead­ers he met with here about the desta­bi­liz­ing nature of the alliance in the region, and the risk that it will attempt more high-vis­i­bil­i­ty attacks such as the ones that rocked Mum­bai. India demon­strat­ed “great restraint and states­man­ship” fol­low­ing that event, Gates told reporters, but he rec­og­nized that it could be hard-pressed to main­tain that pos­ture if a sim­i­lar inci­dent occurred again. “I think it’s not unrea­son­able to assume that Indi­an patience would be lim­it­ed were there to be fur­ther attacks,” he said.

Con­fronting this threat requires the entire region to under­stand its mag­ni­tude and work togeth­er to reduce or elim­i­nate it, Gates said. “It does require a high lev­el of coop­er­a­tion among us all,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)