An alarming South Asia powder keg

Monday, February 21, 2011
By Paul Martin

By Juan C. Zarate

In 1914, a terrorist assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo – unleashing geopolitical forces and World War I. Today, while the United States rightly worries about al-Qaeda targeting the homeland, the most dangerous threat may be another terrorist flash point on the horizon.

Lashkar-i-Taiba holds the match that could spark a conflagration between nuclear-armed historic rivals India and Pakistan. Lashkar-i-Taiba is a Frankenstein’s monster of the Pakistani government’s creation 20 years ago. It has diverse financial networks and well-trained and well-armed cadres that have struck Indian targets from Mumbai to Kabul. It collaborates with the witches’ brew of terrorist groups in Pakistan, including al-Qaeda, and has demonstrated global jihadist ambitions. It is merely a matter of time before Lashkar-i-Taiba attacks again.

Significant terrorist attacks in India, against Parliament in 2001 and in Mumbai in 2008, brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. The countries remain deeply distrustful of each other. Another major strike against Indian targets in today’s tinderbox environment could lead to a broader, more devastating conflict.

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