The United States Department of defence has included Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) among the three terrorist organisations posing the greatest threat to foreign troops in Afghanistan, with at least 300 LeT operatives active in the war-torn country.
LeT, designated a global terror organisation by the US and the UN, was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 166 people. The US has offered a $10 million bounty for the group’s founder, Hafiz Saeed, whose bid to be removed from a list of sanctioned terrorists was rejected by the UN in March.
The report for the period from January 1 to March 31 summarises significant events related to Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the official name for US-led military operations in Afghanistan.
The report states the department of defence “identified the Haqqani Network, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and Lashkar-e Tayyiba as groups that present the greatest threat to US and allied forces in Afghanistan”.
The US report said the conflict in Afghanistan was continuing despite talks between the special representative for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Taliban representatives, who had reached an “agreement in draft” on a framework for peace.
Under the draft agreement, the Taliban will deny safe haven to terror groups in Afghanistan, and the US will withdraw its forces. “While the ‘agreement in draft’ is an important milestone in the negotiation process, the peace talks could break down at any time,” the report said.
“The presence of terrorist groups in Afghanistan, particularly al-Qaeda and ISIS-K, remains a central focus of the [Operation Freedom’s Sentinel] mission and has emerged as one of the key concerns in the ongoing peace negotiations. As the peace talks continue, the questions of whether the Taliban can help influence and deny sanctuary to these groups, and the extent to which an ongoing US counterterrorism presence may be required, have become more prominent,” the report said.