Why attack in Mumbai now?

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There's some interesting analysis in The Times UK about the motivation for the Mumbai terrorist attacks which posits that the attacks are designed to divert Pakistani attention away from Waziristan and al Qaeda and toward its rocky relationship with India, thus foiling the intent of the Obama administration in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Officials and analysts in the region believe that last week's atrocities were designed to provoke a crisis, or even a war, between the nuclear-armed neighbours, diverting Islamabad's attention from extremism in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and thus relieving pressure on al-Qaeda, Taleban and other militants based there.

One analyst even described the attacks as a "pre-emptive strike" against Barack Obama's strategy to put Pakistan and Afghanistan at the centre of US foreign policy.

The United States and its allies now face a balancing act in supporting India's efforts to investigate the Mumbai attacks, without jeopardizing Pakistan's crucial support for the Nato campaign in Afghanistan.

There's more history in the article about the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and al Qaeda.

The two groups were originally founded by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency as deniable proxies to be sent to fight Indian forces in the disputed region of Kashmir. They have been blamed for numerous attacks on Indian targets.

However, Western intelligence agencies have recently perceived a growing nexus between these and other, militant groups such as the Pakistani Taleban and al Qaeda. In June, it was reported that some 300 militant leaders from a number groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad met in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi.

There they reportedly agreed that while the Kashmir struggle remained important, their primary focus should be the fight against international forces in Afghanistan.

Just a few weeks later, nine US soldiers were killed in an attack on a combat outpost at Wanat in the Afghan border province of Nuristan that displayed unusual military competence. Intelligence reports subsequently assessed that the assault included a significant Lashkar-e-Taiba element, as well as al Qaeda fighters.

The growing relationship between al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba may explain the scale and sophistication of the Bombay attacks, said Dr Kanchan Lakshman of the South Asia Terrorism Portal. "It would also suggest why they targeted Americans, British and Israelis," he said.

It's not clear what control, if any, the ISI has over the two groups at this time.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive

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