February 8, 2010

February 8, 2010 | Commentary on Terrorism

Blood and Bollywood: Previewing the Next Target

“Tell them that this is just the trailer. Just wait till you see the rest of the movie.”

“It’s a small example. A preview.”

“The rest of the film remains to be seen.”

These comments come from one of the last calls made by the terrorists in Mumbai, India, as they butchered innocents in November 2008.

During those days of terror, the murder squads trained by Lashkar-e-Taiba -- LeT, the Army of the Good -- received their directions via cell phone from their handler in Lahore, Pakistan. Listening to the killers narrate their string of slaughter -- in calls intercepted by Indian intelligence -- is bone chilling.

One line is particularly haunting: “The rest of the film remains to be seen.”

The Indians eventually killed or captured all of the strike team, but their puppet master in Pakistan was never identified. He remains at large, as does much of the LeT leadership, including LeT founder Hafez Muhd Sayeed. (Pakistan does have one biggie -- Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi -- in custody, along with six other LeT members.)

Remarkably, only 15 months after the incident, few Americans even think about the massacre in India’s most populous city. That’s a worrisome indicator.

There are disturbing parallels between LeT and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the group that launched the failed Christmas Day attack against the United States. Both share Osama bin Laden’s mad vision and proudly link their cause to al-Qaida central. Both started as regional terrorist groups, have declared their intent to go global and have sworn to attack the U.S.

Indeed, there are signs that LeT is working to reach out and touch us quite soon. Earlier this month, a federal grand jury in Chicago unsealed an indictment against David Coleman Headley. A U.S. citizen, Headley’s ties to LeT allegedly go back to 2002 when he attended a LeT training camp. In the years following, he scouted targets worldwide, including reconnaissance for the Mumbai attack.

“Very few things worry me as much as the strength and ambition of LeT, a truly malign presence in South Asia,” said Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism just weeks ago. Yet still, the White House is sending mixed messages.

President Barack Obama has finally admitted that America is at war with al-Qaida. Yet, he rarely mentions groups like LeT and al-Shabaab. In the State of the Union address, the Long War barely rated a mention. In one of the longest presidential speeches in the modern era, Obama’s discussion on his duties as a war president (from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the homeland) rated only a few minutes.

These groups require much more attention than that. We need to worry about their tactics. We are not immune to the tactic of multiple armed assaults. They also might attempt to introduce weaponry not normally used here, including rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, suicide bombers, small ground-launched rockets or improvised mortars fired by timers.

Think Fort Hood on steroids.

The best way to prevent Battleground America is to prevent attacks as they are being planned. That requires effective counterterrorism, intelligence and information-sharing operations at our end, and increasing pressure on Pakistan to shut down LeT altogether.

Unfortunately, we also must spend more time thinking about what happens if Mumbai happens here. The Department of Homeland Security has 15 disaster-planning scenarios to identify common capabilities needed by responders and to serve as a focus for planning and training exercises at the federal, state and local levels. These scenarios should be revised to include armed-assault responses.

We cannot afford to have “the rest of the film” play out here.

Examiner columnist James Jay Carafano is senior research fellow for national and homeland security at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow

Related Issues: Terrorism

First Appeared in The Examiner