A group not larger than a rifle squad, armed only with small arms, paralyzed a city
of 18 million for three days, killing (at least) 172 people, and injuring 293 more.
The Islamist terrorists who attacked Mumbai (Bombay) succeeded to the extent they
did chiefly because Indian security forces were poorly armed and trained, and strict
gun control laws left ordinary citizens unable to defend themselves. But it is
still a testament to what can be accomplished by a handful of well-trained fanatics
who are willing to die in order to kill.
What was accomplished by this orgy of mass murder? The raid clearly was a tactical
success, and a lot more people now have heard of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group to
which the one captured terrorist said he and his fellows belong. The publicity
generated likely will lead to a substantial boost in contributions to Islamist
Whether what Islamist Web sites are calling "the invasion of Bombay" becomes a
strategic success depends chiefly upon what a weak and embarrassed government in New
Delhi, and a weaker government in Islamabad do next.
LeT, whose professed goal is to wrest from India the portion of the disputed
province of Kashmir it controls, is based in Pakistan. All ten terrorists were
Pakistanis. They were trained at a camp in Pakistan, reportedly by former officers
in the Pakistani army. So the Indian government and more importantly, the Indian
people do not take at face value the Pakistani government's denials that it was
involved in the attack. This is especially so because the LeT is largely the
creation of Pakistan's CIA, the InterService Intelligence Agency (ISI).
The irony is Pakistan's pathetic elected goverment probably was completely unaware
of the attack on Mumbai. The government has little control over much of the
country, and less over the ISI, which has long been a law unto itself.
The terrorists originally were being trained by the ISI for a low level attack in
Kashmir, but the plan was hijacked by a more militant faction of LeT and al Qaida,
said the Pakistan bureau chief for the Asia Times.
LeT commander Zaikur Rahman and the major commanding ISI's forward section in
Karachi, the port from which the terrorists launched, "completely disconnected from
the top brass," redirected the attack to Mumbai, wrote Syed Saleem Shahzad.
The Indian government, pressured by an angry populace, understandably is demanding
that Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, arrest those who planned and financed
the attack. But Mr. Zardari probably lacks the power, and certainly lacks the
desire, to do so.
If Pakistan's government doesn't act, India's military and intelligence services may
retaliate. And this could provoke a military confrontation between India and
Why would Islamists generally, and al Qaida in particular, want that?
First, tensions with India will put an end to the Pakistani military's half-hearted
efforts against the Taliban in the regions bordering Afghanistan.
Second, conflict could further destabilize already dysfunctional Pakistan,
permitting the Islamists to make further gains at the expense of the mostly secular
Punjabi elite represented by Mr. Zardari.
Third, conflict could disrupt U.S./NATO supply lines to Afghanistan, most of which
go through Pakistan, or its airspace.
Fourth, Islamists dream that Muslims will one day once again rule the entire Indian
subcontinent, as they did for eight and a half centuries before being ousted by the
British. Since there are 960 million Hindus, this seems impractical. But India
also has 160 million Muslims, and with four ongoing guerrilla insurgencies, India is
stable only in comparison to Pakistan. It is not unreasonable to believe enough
stress could cause India to break up, and that the Islamists could pick up several
of the pieces.
Islamist Web sites are describing the "invasion of Bombay" as a "clear victory."
They have good reasons for thinking so.
This is a problem that won't go away when George Bush's term ends January 20, and
which can't be resolved by face to face negotiations, without preconditions.