WASHINGTON: Pentagon spokesperson George Little says that groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba remain a threat to people in South Asia and to the US.
Speaking to reporters at a press briefing at the Pentagon, Little said that from the US perspective, the Lashkar e Taiba is a very dangerous group that has mounted operations externally. "This is a very serious issue for us and that is why you saw this announcement," said the Pentagon spokesperson. He added that the Pakistani government understands the United States' long standing concerns about Lashkar-e-Taiba.
In response to a question on co-operation with Pakistan, Little declined to get into specific details of their discussions with the Pakistani side, but said that it was on looking for ways to co-operate with the Pakistani military.
Process for reward on Saeed was ongoing for past many months
Meanwhile, US state department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, explaining the delay in a bounty being placed on Hafiz Saeed and his brother-in-aw Abdu Rahman Makki, said that plans were underway for months, but less than a year, to put up the reward on the JuD duo.
She said that the process involves an intelligence evaluation. “There has to be a policy evaluation. There has to be a discussion with Congress. This is a lot of money for the US taxpayer to put up, and so that process takes some time. Things have to be correlated. There is an entire review process. There's an interagency rewards committee that has to look through this, and then the secretary has to approve it.”
Asked about the how and when Saeed was linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, she said “sometimes what happens is intelligence and other information comes later with regards to whereabouts of individuals, which leads one to think that offering a reward might cause citizens who know where they are to come forward.”
“Sometimes that isn't evident right at the time of the crime, so sometimes it comes up later ... over the last few months, that this kind of a reward might hasten the judicial process, if you will.”
Asked whether the prize related to Hafiz Saeed’s defence that he had been whipping up public pressure on the Pakistan government to not reopen the Nato supply route, Nuland dismissed the notion. “No, it has everything to do with Mumbai and his brazen flouting of the justice system.”
She added that the US had been in communication with Pakistani authorities over the fire brand cleric’s arrest.
“We have continued to impress on the government of Pakistan that we believe it has a special responsibility to fully investigate and bring those responsible to justice to the extent that it can. The government of Pakistan has regularly, in our conversations with them, pledged its cooperation in the investigations. We fully expect that it will follow through on those commitments. I would guess that this case probably will come up.”
Asked whether India had any role in the reward being placed on the former LeT founders, Nuland dismissed it saying the process is internal, and while affected governments are informed of the step, it is not a consultative process.
However, when pressed why the US was offering a reward for a non-American, allegedly involved in activities which have not directly targeted Americans, Nuland said, “well, it's because we want to see him brought to justice.” While not offering a clear confirmation that the reward had any connection with the deaths of six Americans during the Mumbai attacks, for which India and the US blame Hafiz Saeed, she said that the US was cooperating given US citizen had been killed.
“This is a case that's been going on for a long time. This is with regard to justice being served on people who have killed Americans, so that there is no impunity for them anywhere in the world.”