By Arun Kumar
Washington, July 1 (IANS) A top US military official sees greater synergy between terrorist groups with the Al Qaeda leadership living in Pakistan and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), blamed for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, looking beyond India.
"Al Qaeda does live in Pakistan and strategically, I've felt, for some time, which is one of the reasons I've worked on the relationship with Pakistan so hard," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at Aspen Institute, Aspen, Colorado.
"They are also a country, now, very much under siege from terrorists, internally," he said in an interaction at the think tank suggesting Pakistan was "very focused on, obviously, the threat against them from "Al Qaeda and the other terrorist groups that are out there."
"One of the things I've watched over the last couple of years is the synergy between terrorist groups," he said citing LeT and cases of Pakistani-Americans involved in terrorism, including David Coleman Headley, Faisal Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi.
Headley has confessed to his role in the Mumbai attack. Shahzad made the failed bombing attempt in Times Square and Zazi has admitted being part of the 2009 US Al Qaeda group accused of planning suicide bombings on the New York City subway system.
"LeT is another. Generally, LeT was east, focused on India. And they're now in the west. And actually, they're not just in the west, focused on Pakistan. There are LeT elements focused on Afghanistan,"
"We've seen in our own country, recently - with Detroit, with Times Square, with Headley, with Zazi - we've seen an increasing level of distributed threats, if you will, and an ability to expand this federated approach which Al Qaeda has had," Mullen said.
"And Al Qaeda is at the centre of this and Al Qaeda leadership resides in Pakistan," he said. "We know that and that's why this strategy, from my perspective, is so important, in terms of getting at Al Qaeda leadership and making sure they've got nowhere to go."
"Al Qaeda continues to be, you know, the seminal threat and the leadership, obviously," Mullen said. "While they've had some challenges in the last couple of years, but I think that's really the heart of it. And their strategic goals include, again, killing as many Westerners and Americans as possible."