By Arun Kumar
Washington, Sep 29 (IANS) Shortly after the failed Times Square bombing plot, the US warned Pakistan against playing "Russian roulette" with terrorist groups associated with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks, threatening the US.
President Barack Obama dispatched his national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, and CIA director Leon Panetta to Pakistan to convey this warning less than three weeks after a Pakistan-born US citizen tried to blow up an SUV in New York City's famous Times Square, according to a new book, "Obama's Wars" by Bob Woodward.
"We're living on borrowed time," Jones told Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari at the first meeting in Islamabad.
"Jones thought that Pakistan - a US ally with an a la carte approach of going after some terrorist groups and supporting others - was playing Russian roulette. The chamber had turned out to be empty the past several times, but Jones thought it was only a matter of time before there was a round in it," Woodward writes.
Asking Pakistan "to reject all forms of terrorism as a viable instrument of national policy inside your borders," the two officials told Zardari whatever Pakistan was doing with the many terrorist groups operating inside its borders, it wasn't good or effective enough.
Panetta pulled out a "link chart", developed from FBI interviews and other intelligence that showed how Pakistan-based Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) had assisted the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad.
The two officials pointed "to the disturbing intelligence about Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group behind the horrific 2008 Mumbai attacks that had killed 175, including six Americans".
Pakistani authorities are holding the commander of the Mumbai attacks, Jones said, but he is not being adequately interrogated and "he continues to direct LeT operations from his detention center".
Intelligence shows that Lashkar-e-Taiba is threatening attacks in the US and that the possibility "is rising each day".
The two in effect told Zardari that if there is a successful attack in the US, there might be no way to save the strategic partnership, the book suggests. "If that happens, all bets are off," Panetta is quoted as saying.
Afterward, the American officials met privately with Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the most powerful figure in the country. But he had other concerns.
"I'll be the first to admit, I'm India-centric," he is quoted as saying.
Later in a pessimistic report to Obama, Jones said he was once again alarmed that success in Afghanistan was tied to what the Pakistanis would or would not do.
"As he saw it, the United States could not 'win' in Afghanistan as long as the Pakistani safe havens remained. It was a 'cancer' on the plan the president had announced at the end of 2009," Woodward writes.
Second, the report said the Pakistanis did not have the same sense of urgency as the Americans. There were regular terrorist strikes in Pakistan, so they could not understand the traumatic impact of a single, small attack on the US homeland.
The Pakistanis were making another mistake by applying that same logic to India, in Jones's view.
"If Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group behind the Mumbai attacks, struck there again, India would not be able to show the kind of restraint that it had then. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had barely survived Mumbai politically, would have to respond."
The options for Obama too would be significantly narrowed in the aftermath of an attack originating out of Pakistan, the report concluded.