More on Pakistani duplicity from the LA Times, with thanks to Looney Tunes:
WASHINGTON “” U.S. counter-terrorism authorities say that the detention of a Lodi, Calif.-based group of Pakistani men this month underscores a serious problem: the Islamabad government’s failure to dismantle hundreds of jihadist training camps.
Long before the FBI arrested Hamid Hayat and his father, Umer Hayat, and accused the son of attending one of the camps, law enforcement and intelligence officials were watching the Pakistan-based training sites with increasing anxiety.
Technically, they say, the Pakistani government was probably right when it declared this month that the younger Hayat could not have received training at a “jihadist” camp near Rawalpindi since that is the home to Pakistan’s military and its feared intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.
But that’s because the Pakistani officials were referring to the “old” kind of Al Qaeda camp shown endlessly on TV, in which masked jihadists run around in broad daylight, detonating explosives, firing automatic weapons and practicing kidnappings, these officials say.
Since the post-Sept. 11 military strikes on Al Qaeda strongholds in Pakistan’s tribal territories, the jihadist training effort has scattered and gone underground, where it is much harder to detect and destroy, U.S. and Pakistani officials said in interviews.
Instead of large and visible camps, would-be terrorists are being recruited, radicalized and trained in a vast system of smaller, under-the-radar jihadist sites.
And the effort is no longer overseen by senior Al Qaeda operatives as it was in Afghanistan, but by at least three of Pakistan’s largest militant groups, which are fueled by a shared radical fundamentalist Islamic ideology. The militant groups have long maintained close ties to Osama bin Laden and his global terrorist network, according to those officials and several unpublicized U.S. government reports.
The groups themselves “” Harkat-ul-Mujahedin, or HuM; Jaish-e-Mohammed; and Lashkar-e-Taiba “” have officially been banned in Pakistan since 2002 and have been formally designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. That has prompted occasional crackdowns by Islamabad, but the groups merely change their names and occasionally their leadership and resume operations, authorities say.
Tiny minority of extremists update:
The groups wield tremendous political influence, are well-funded and are said to have tens of thousands of fanatical followers, including a small but unknown number of Americans who have entered the system after first enrolling at Pakistan-based Islamic schools, or madrasas. U.S. officials also accuse them of complicity in many of the terrorist attacks against American and allied interests in Pakistan and other assaults in the disputed Kashmir region.
Many U.S. officials say it’s not surprising that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf hasn’t cracked down harder on the militant groups and what they describe as their increasingly extensive training activities.
For years, the ISI itself has worked closely with the groups in training Pakistan’s own network of militants to fight ongoing conflicts in Kashmir and elsewhere, and to protect the country’s interests in neighboring Afghanistan. The militant groups also derive tremendous influence from their affiliations with increasingly powerful fundamentalist political parties in Pakistan…
“We once knew who the enemy was and what groups were the enemy. And it’s become much more difficult to discern that now,” said Bruce Hoffman, a chairman of the Rand Corp. and a counter-terrorism consultant to the U.S. government.
With all respect, Mr. Hoffman, I am not convinced that you ever knew who the enemy was. You just thought you did. Studying the pedigrees of various jihadist groups and sniffing each carefully for ties to al-Qaida is a fruitless diversion. It’s really not that complicated. The foe is an ideology that is held by untold numbers of individuals, many of whom coalesce from time to time into various groups, which can disappear as easily as they arose. The ideology is the thing, but I know it is beneath the notice of most of those at State and in the Administration.