ILYAS Kashmiri's Killing in US Drone Attack a Major Gain For INDIA

Author : C.Uday Bhaskar

The reported death of terrorist leader Ilyas Kashmiri in a US drone attack near the Pak-Afghan border has now been confirmed as "98% sure" by Pak Interior Minister Rehman Malik. The reason for these caveats about Kashmiri's death stems from the fact that there were similar reports in September 2009, which later proved to be untrue. However this time around, the Huji, which he headed, has put out a statement confirming the death of their 'emir' and has threatened to take revenge against the US.

Coming almost a month after the dramatic Abbottabad raid that neutralized Osama bin Laden , the killing of Kashmir is a significant step. Given his audacity and involvement in a series of high profile attacks that included Mumbai in November 2008, the US consulate in Karachi in March 2006 and most recently the PNS Mehran in Karachi, this terrorist had the dubious distinction of being 'most wanted' for all three nations.

Kashmiri, born in PoK has been long associated with the 'jihadi' terror that began with the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and is reported to have lost an eye in that period. Emerging as the leader of the Huji and its murderous 313 Brigade, Kashmiri either personally carried out, or planned a series of deadly attacks against India from the early 1990s.

Reported to have had close links with all the major terror groups operating in Pak, including the al-Qaeda, the Pakistan Taliban and other groups such as the JeM, the most gruesome act associated with Kashmiri is the beheading of an Indian soldier in February 2000 - and presenting this 'trophy' to General Pervez Musharraf, the then Pak Army Chief.

This is illustrative of the deep links that have been established between the terror groups and their handlers in the Pak establishment. Much the same pattern has been revealed in the Headley testimony in the Chicago court trials, where it has been stated that Kashmiri was the principal handler for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Kashmiri had acquired a larger than life profile and was tipped to be a potential successor to bin Laden after the latter was killed.

The US had listed him in its top five terrorist leaders and it is understood that after the Abbotabad operation, the Pentagon had identified July as the period by which it expected Pakistan to 'assist' in capture/killing of terrorists leaders. The other four names include: al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Omar, ISI friendly warlord Sirajuddin Haqqani and Libyan al Qaeda operative Atiya Abdur Rehman.

The removal of bin Laden and now Kashmiri will testify to the success of the steady application of US military pressure on the different terrorist groups that have been operating with relative impunity in Pak till now. With the reported reduction in US and Nato/ISAF military presence later this year, the Pak military would be keen to blur the distinction between the different shades of terror groups, local warlords and Taliban commanders. The noose will be tightened around the Haqqani faction as the US seeks to begin the last lap of the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

The out-going US Defence Secretary Robert Gates made reference to the possibility of a US-Taliban rapprochement later this year at the Singapore ShangriLa Dialogue (June 2-3) and it was reiterated in Kabul where the US Defence chief is paying his last official visit. At a press meet (June 4), Gates and President Karzai said the Taliban would have to sever ties with al-Qaeda, agree to abide by the Afghan constitution and lay down arms if they wanted a political role.

This objective is in keeping with the Indian position on reconciliation in Afghanistan. However the US penchant to strike short-term bargains with the Pak military for immediate electoral cum tactical compulsions has a historical tenacity that cannot be discounted. India would be well-advised to pay appropriate high-level political attention to these developments in the region. But Delhi is mired in its own mendacity as it lurches from one corruption crisis to another.
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