By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 21, 2010 - An al-Qaida-backed terror syndicate is focused on destabilizing South Asia and stoking tensions between India and Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters yesterday.
Speaking at a news conference after meetings with Indian leaders, Gates emphasized "the magnitude of the threat" the region faces in light of al-Qaida, Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba elements, all working toward common goals.
Groups operating under the al-Qaida umbrella in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, probably in North Waziristan, are orchestrating attacks using one element in Afghanistan, he said. Meanwhile, another element of the Taliban in Pakistan is being used to attack targets there, destabilizing the region. At the same time, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the separatist group blamed for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, is planning new attacks in India.
"It's a very complicated situation. I think it's very dangerous for the region as a whole," Gates said. "I also think it's dangerous to single out any one of these groups and say if we could beat that group that will solve the problem -- because they are, in effect, a syndicate of terrorist operators intending to destabilize this entire region.
"What we see is that the success of any one of these groups leads to new capabilities and new reputation for all," he continued. "A victory for one is a victory for all."
Gates said he talked with the Indian leaders he met with here about the destabilizing nature of the alliance in the region, and the risk that it will attempt more high-visibility attacks such as the ones that rocked Mumbai.
India demonstrated "great restraint and statesmanship" following that event, Gates told reporters, but he recognized that it could be hard-pressed to maintain that posture if a similar incident occurred again.
"I think it's not unreasonable to assume that Indian patience would be limited were there to be further attacks," he said.
Confronting this threat requires the entire region to understand its magnitude and work together to reduce or eliminate it, Gates said. "It does require a high level of cooperation among us all," he said.