May 2002 News

Al-Qaeda helping terror campaign in Kashmir: US

29 May 2002
The Nation
Afzal Khan

WASHINGTON : AlQaeda and Taliban members are helping organise a terror campaign in Kashmir to foment conflict between India and Pakistan, USA Today quoted US intelligence officials and foreign diplomats as saying.Apparently buying the Indian leads on al Qaeda linkage with Kashmir insurgency, the Paper, however, said Intelligence officials have yet to link al-Qaeda or the Taliban conclusively to specific acts, such as the attack on the Indian Parliament Dec. 13, which touched off the latest crisis, or Tuesday’s shooting of seven people in a Kashmiri village.Some Pentagon and CIA officials are not ready to ascribe al-Qaeda activities in Kashmir to a coordinated terrorist campaign, it added.According to the Paper, al-Qaeda’s current strategy included: Relieving pressure on al-Qaeda members hiding in western Pakistan by forcing the Pakistan government to move troops searching for the terrorists to the eastern border with India.Destabilising the govt of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf by raising tensions with India and pushing Musharraf to crack down on domestic Islamic militants who support al-Qaeda.The Paper said Al- Qaeda’s ability to coordinate terrorist activities in Kashmir worries US officials because it indicates the war in Afghanistan has not put the group out of business. The shift of Pakistani troops to the Indian border leaves US operatives in western Pakistan without crucial allies to pursue al-Qaeda leaders that might include Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.But sources familiar with US Intelligence analysis say al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives in the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan are helping terrorists they had trained in Afghanistan to infiltrate Indian- controlled territory. Their goal, says one US Intelligence official, is to "cause the biggest problem between India and Pakistan that they possibly can." The intelligence is coming from interrogations of al- Qaeda and Taliban members, as well as information supplied by intelligence organisations in Pakistan and India, the officials say.Robert Oakley, former US ambassador to Pakistan, says that if al- Qaeda "can do something to bring India and Pakistan to war, that’s wonderful for them because it relieves pressure on them." A link between al-Qaeda and Kashmiri militants would pose an awkward problem for the United States, which would have trouble carrying out its war against al-Qaeda and still remain neutral in the India-Pakistan dispute.Musharraf’s government, which fears the conflict could turn Pakistan’s Muslims against his pro-US regime, denied charges by India on Tuesday that Pakistan is harbouring al-Qaeda terrorists in Kashmir.

 

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