Transcript of December 4 Panel on Mumbai Attacks

Cross Posted from Counterterrorism Blog

By Andrew Cochran

The transcript of our panel on the Mumbai attacks, held December 4 in Washington, is available here as an Acrobat document. The panel consisted of Contributing Experts Dr. Walid Phares and Farhana Ali, and Dr. David Kilcullen, and I served as the moderator. Some highlights from each panelist are below. I also want to invite your attention to the archive of posts here on the activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the U.S., some of which were discussed by the panel. Contact me if you have questions for the panelists or comments. I especially want to thank Assistant Newslink Editor Brett Wallace for his usual stellar job in compiling the transcript.

Walid Phares: “(W)hat we are dealing with here is a decision made at the level of regional jihadists. It has the flavor, has the mark of the whole operation chronologically speaking, it comes at the heal of previous incidents on one hand but if you project the operation it may lead you on the other hand to the logic that a decision had been made on a much higher level. It is probably all the way up to a war room between Al Qaeda and the Taliban, with the LeT being “subcontracted” for the operation and information supply by infiltration within the Pakistani security apparatus. If you look at the scheme, the structure, you will see the interests of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the execution by LeT and security provided by an intelligence apparatus in Pakistan.”

Farhana Ali: “A few days after the attacks, I received an email from a source in Pakistan who meets with… the leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the political wing for LeT, and who has family that are hard-core loyalists to Laskhar. He sent me an email on November 30th in which he wrote, ‘According to two senior sources within jihadi outfits and as many in the intelligence agencies, the recent terror attacks in different parts of Mumbai…were masterminded by Pakistani intelligence agency ISI… The Lashkar leaders are not accepting the responsibility at official level but they are taking pride is claiming it among their trusted people.’… I think it is very clear that if you look at the LeT’s strategy it is to weaken India and to help establish the caliphate which is part of their ideological program… My sources say at least 23 (attackers).”

David Kilcullen: “This was not some Islamic charity or some group working alone from the Deccan Mujahedeen: this has all the hallmarks of a Special Forces raid, closer to a commando or SBS raiding activity than a traditional Al Qaeda style terrorist attack. Al Qaeda has never attacked a land target from the sea, though they have attacked maritime targets from the sea, such as the Cole, the Limburg and attacks on Saudi oil installations. There has never been anything close to this level of sophistication of a seaborne attack: this was a high professional bar. We can deduce they had some professional help though I think it is much too early to state who that support came from. It has been set up to look like a Pakistani government operation. We should be careful until we know more. As a side bar, European CT forces captured an Al Qaeda CD that highlighted Al Qaeda urban warfare tactics, and these matched those used in Mumbai to the letter. The sea part was new but the land parts followed Al Qaeda tactics pretty closely.”

Andrew Cochran: “One story that caught my eye was a story about SIM cards and cell phones, because there have been increasing concern about terrorists using stored value cards and SIM cards in cell phones… SOCOM (NOTE: The Pentagon’s Special Operations Command) has met with a number of representatives of financial institutions, telecom companies and builders of those systems to learn more about mobile banking techniques… So the Mumbai attack presents the possibility – we won’t know until the investigation is completed – that this was the first large-scale terrorist attack involving stored value card and mobile banking technologies…

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