Gates casts Qaeda as terror syndicate

Washington Post / January 21, 2010

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NEW DELHI - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday that Al Qaeda was using proxy terrorist groups to orchestrate attacks in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan as part of a broader strategy to destabilize the region.

In a news conference held after two days of meetings with Indian officials, Gates said Al Qaeda had formed a “syndicate’’ of terrorist groups with Taliban factions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Lashkar-i-Taiba, a Kashmir separatist network blamed for the 2008 Mumbai hotel attacks that killed 165 people.

“What we see is that the success of any one of these groups leads to new capabilities and a new reputation for all,’’ Gates said.

“A victory for one is a victory for all.’’

US intelligence officials have said that jihadi groups in the region are cooperating more closely than ever and that it has become increasingly difficult to sort out who, exactly, is responsible for many high-profile bombings, including the Dec. 30 suicide attack on a CIA base in eastern Afghanistan.

Gates said all of the factions were working under the umbrella of Al Qaeda.

He said Al Qaeda’s approach was intended not just to destabilize the Afghan and Pakistani governments but also to provoke a conflict between India and Pakistan. The two countries have fought four wars since declaring independence in 1947.