Majority of members of the militant group, Lashkar e-Taiba (LeT), consider Kashmir as a front for jihad (holy war) against India, according to a newly-released US report.
Up to 94 percent of the guerrillas view Kashmir as a fighting front and most of them are well-educated, drawn out mostly from Pakistan’s Punjab state.
Based on the study of over 900 slain militants, the report titled “The Fighters of Lashkar-e-Taiba: Recruitment, Training, Deployment and Death,” a copy of which KUNA has also accessed, has been prepared by Arif Jamal, Nadia Shoeb, Anirban Ghosh, Christine Fair, and Don Rassler at Combating Terrorism Centre in West Point military academy. The study, released on Thursday (April 4) reads, “The recruits often become holy warriors with the help of their families, which admire Lashkar’s military exploits in India and Afghanistan, its nationalism and social service activities at home Pakistan.” LeT, a Pakistani militant group, fights an asymmetric warfare against Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir for over two decades, as well as other parts of India more recently. Tensions soared between India and Pakistan when militants stormed Mumbai hotels and railways stations in 2008 killing over 150 people. India blames LeT for the attacks. New Delhi also maintains that Pakistani state backs LeT, a charge Islamabad has always denied.
The US study on the militant group further says that LeT training has historically occurred in Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK’s) capital Muzaffarabad and in Afghanistan. “Together these two locations have accounted for 75 per cent of LeT militant training over time,” it says.
It further says that 94 per cent of fighters list Indian Kashmir as a fighting front. “Afghanistan, Chechnya, Tajikistan and Bosnia are also identified in the biographies as other fronts”.
The report says LeT’s local activity and infrastructure are and will remain the key source of its strength, even if the group decides to become more active on the international arena.
“By leveraging biographical information extracted from four Urdu language publications produced by LeT from 1994 to 2007 and statistical information released by the government of Pakistan, this study aims to provide baseline data about LeT’s local recruits, the nature of the time they spend with the group and how these dynamics have changed over time,” it reads.
The authors have tried to provide insights into the general background of LeT’s local fighters, how and from where are these fighters recruited, the level of training these fighters undergo and where exactly do LeT’s fighters die.
The report says the mean age when a recruit joins LeT is 16.95 years, while the militants’ mean age at the time of their death is 21 years. “The mean number of years between an LeT militant’s entry and death is 5.14 years,” it says.
The report says siblings and parents are central characters in the biographies and they play important roles in a fighter’s entry into and journey through LeT. “For example, siblings or other immediate family members were often the one to drop off a LeT recruit at a training camp or at the border before his mission. This finding suggests that scholars should reconsider the value of parental influences in understanding radicalization and a young person’s decision to participate in jihad,” the report states.
The report further reads that on average the group’s cadres had higher levels of secular education than other Pakistani males.
” LeT fighters do not have high levels of formal religious education,” it says. “In fact uncle of one militant was a Director at Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission, while the father of another was the president of the Pakistan Muslim League’s labor wing in Islamabad/Rawalpindi.” Interestingly, Lashkar has maintained biographies of its dead fighters and most of the biographies, the US report has consulted from, includes four volumes of Hum Ma’en Lashkar-e-Taiba Ki (We, the Mothers of Lashkar-e-Taiba) (181 biographies) Majallah Taibaat (Journal of Virtuous Women) 14 biographies and Majallah al-Dawa (Journal for the Call to Islam) 696 biographies.
The US report maintains that the districts of Kupwara, Baramulla and Poonch in Indian-administered Kashmir account for almost half of all LeT militant deaths since 1989 when an armed rebellion against New Delhi’s rule began.
“The scale and scope of LeT’s training is extensive,” the report says, adding “While not all who receive training see combat in places like Indian Kashmir, some estimates suggest that between 100,000 to 300,000 men have received some form of LeT training over the last two decades.” Although LeT has played a prominent role in the Kashmir conflict-a place where it has good following and where local recruits are easily available–very little was so far known about the group’s regular fighters, which this US report tries to discover.