STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It's Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. The government of Pakistan says it has arrested two men identified as masterminds of last month's terror attacks in Mumbai, India. These moves come after a visit last week by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Despite those arrests, Pakistan remains a challenge for both the outgoing and the incoming U.S. administrations. And we have more this morning from NPR's Tom Gjelten.
TOM GJELTEN: Six days a week, President-elect Barack Obama gets a top-secret briefing on threats to U.S. security. It's a good bet Pakistan gets mentioned in that briefing every day. Here's the man who until this week was responsible for preparing the brief, Thomas Fingar, the retiring chairman of the National Intelligence Council.
Dr. THOMAS FINGAR (Chairman, National Intelligence Council): Pakistan may be one of the single most challenging places on the planet.
GJELTEN: And then Fingar starts listing some reasons.
Dr. FINGAR: The Taliban, the safe havens for terrorists, a fragile government - some would say dysfunctional government - wrestling with ungoverned territories, possessing nuclear weapons, civil-military relations that are...
GJELTEN: Fingar's list goes on and on.
Dr. FINGAR: Its location and everything from resupply in Afghanistan to future roots with...
GJELTEN: With last month's attacks in Mumbai, the Pakistan challenge has grown. U.S. and Indian intelligence officials say the 10 terrorists known to have carried out those attacks all came from Pakistan and have ties to the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Army of the Pure.
LeT, as the group is sometimes called, had been focused on fighting Indian forces in the disputed region of Kashmir now shared between India and Pakistan. If the LeT was behind the Mumbai attacks, it means the group is now aiming more broadly. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just returned from discussions in India and Pakistan about the Mumbai attacks.
Admiral MIKE MULLEN (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff): This wasn't just about India, or India and Pakistan, because they killed Americans. That's a new threshold. They killed Brits. They specifically targeted a Jewish center. So, again, it raises this outfit to a much - I think a much higher level than where it was before.
GJELTEN: U.S. officials say the Lashkar-e-Taiba organization was largely founded by the Pakistan government's Inter-Service Intelligence agency, or ISI, which saw LeT as a kind of proxy army in Kashmir. Whether the ISI continues to finance LeT is not clear, according to U.S. officials. In any case, the Pakistani government has been reluctant to move against the group. Admiral Mullen says he told Pakistani officials that they must now act, regardless of what they've done for the LeT group in the past.
Admiral MULLEN: There's a rich history here of ISI fomenting challenges, particularly in Kashmir, and everybody is aware of that. We're aware of that. The Indians are aware of that. The Pakistanis are aware of that. And it's literally that piece of the previous strategy in Pakistan which I believe has got to shift for the future.
GJELTEN: The U.S. message was that Pakistan should arrest LeT leaders and close down the training camps they operate on Pakistani territory. At the same time, the United States is pressing India not to launch retaliatory strikes against LeT sites in Pakistan. In a Pentagon briefing yesterday, Mullen praised the initial Pakistani arrests of LeT militants.
Admiral MULLEN: They've gotten some of the right people, significant players with respect to LeT. These are first steps. And so there are more steps to follow.
GJELTEN: Indian military action against Pakistan could have ignited a dangerous confrontation between the two nuclear-armed countries. A senior U.S. official who is closely monitoring intelligence from the region says the Pakistani actions have lessened the tensions. Our concerns are easing, the official said. But he and others are still worried.
The two senior LeT leaders said to have been detained are apparently only under house arrest. Plus, there is the question of whether LeT terrorists will now strike Pakistani government targets in retaliation for the moves against them, and also whether this crisis will undermine efforts against the al-Qaeda network based in the Pakistani mountains - all concerns likely to come up in intelligence briefings for the new Barack Obama administration. Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.
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