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Pentagon hails Pakistan's action against LeT

By Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
December 11, 2008 10:22 IST
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Describing the steps taken by Pakistan in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks as great, a top Pentagon official has held that many more such steps would be taken by Islamabad.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen has said that there is a strong desire for justice on the part of the people of India and he is 'grateful for the restraint shown by the country'.

"I will not go so far as to say that tensions then or now are completely eased in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. You can imagine... the degree to which fear and uncertainty have gripped the Indian people and just how strong was their desire for justice," Mullen said at a Pentagon news briefing.

"  can tell you that, in Pakistan, as well, I sense a real appreciation for both the seriousness of the attacks and the growing threats of terrorism inside their own borders. I remain grateful for the restraint India has shown, and I'm encouraged by the news out of Islamabad that the Pakistani military has captured and detained several militants, including a key leader of the LeT group," he said.

"These are great steps. I certainly hope and expect there will be more such steps taken by Pakistani authorities in the near future. It's going to be some time before we know all the details behind the Mumbai attacks, perhaps even longer before we completely understand exact motives and goals. But it shouldn't be lost on anyone how a handful of well-trained terrorists, using fairly unsophisticated tools in a highly sophisticated manner, held at bay an entire city and nearly brought to a boil interstate tensions between two nuclear powers," Mullen said.

Asked if he is satisfied with what has been done by Pakistan so far, Mullen said, "In these initial arrests, they've gotten some of the right people, significant players with respect to Lashkar-e-Tayiba."

"These are the first steps, and so there are more steps to follow. But they've moved pretty quickly with respect to these arrests, with respect to shutting down some of the camps, and all that, I think, is very positive. And I applaud the efforts thus far that the Pakistani government has taken."

The top military official was asked if he believed that Pakistan is serious this time given the fact that LeT terrorists have been rounded up, only to be released without being charged with anything, in the past.

"One of the biggest challenges that I think we have with Pakistan is the history and is this, for example -- does this mean we're not going to repeat history? I certainly
hope we don't in that regard, but that's -- that's one of the realities of where we are ", he replied.

"I'm not going to go into the specific things that me and ISI chief General Kiyani talk about. Again, these are private meetings. But certainly... the central issue was the attacks on Mumbai and the -- the association of those attacks with terrorists who came from Pakistan and that steps needed to be taken with respect to them. I wouldn't say anything more than that", he said.

"It was these 10 individuals that held this city of 15 million to 18 million people at bay for 72 hours and did it in a very systematic, sophisticated way. The group was well trained over a period of time to execute this operation," Mullen said.

"And all of us are certainly concerned about that. While one occurs, you're worried about, is this first of what could be more? And certainly every effort is being made to prevent that. And we are, where we are asked, where we've been asked, we are working with the Indians to provide them intelligence in order to do that," he added, declining to get into the specifics of the total number of attackers.

Mullen maintained that the leadership he met in Pakistan including President Asif Ali Zardari and General Kiyani are all very serious about prosecuting this issue.

"They are very much aware, obviously, of the potential here. They have, in my judgment, shown restraint in terms of readiness of forces, movement of forces after the attacks. So have the Indian leaders done so.... we all appreciate the fact that -- that that restraint has been very much a part of this to get to the root cause of this," the Admiral said.

"It remains very important that the government of Pakistan take not just the steps they've taken, but the steps that they need to continue to take to root this out so it doesn't happen again.... we measure by deeds. And certainly these initial actions, as I indicated, are positive. There's more to do, but very positive steps," he added.

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Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
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