There has been a great deal of reporting, speculation, finger pointing and denials on the Mumbai attacks, much of which has focused on trees (dots) instead of forests.
After reading with empathy and horror of the death and destruction, the question remained, who was behind this and why? The Indian government has stated the surviving terrorist they've captured was Pakistani from the Muslim Punjab region who was trained as part of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani based Kashmir separatist group with purported ties to both al Qaeda and the Pakastani ISI.
Which leads to the following (dots) about the attacks:
- =>The style of attack was military - a special forces/commando type raid - in nature.
- =>The military training of the attackers purportedly by ex-Pakistani military officers.
- =>The claim by Hamid Gul, the ex-head of the Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI), reported to be involved in the formation of the Taliban, that al Qaeda was NOT behind either the Mubai attacks or 9/11, blaming instead (on this Sunday's edition of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS) an"Israeli Zionist Neocon Conspiracy" which matches his ongoing denial that Bin Laden is a terrorist (George Stephanopoulos asked Condolezza Rice on THIS WEEK Sunday about reports that the U.S. has asked for Gul to be turned over for indictment. Rice declined to comment).
- =>The capture of a fishing trawler out of a Pakistani port.
- =>Initial targets that were designed to draw first responders away from two targets of note: the Taj Hotel and the Jewish Center.
- =>The Taj is owned by the leading industrialists of India, the Tata Group (Tata Steel, Tata Auto...), descendants of Zoroastrian priests known for their tolerance of others. The Taj was built in 1903 by Jamsetji Tata, India's pioneering industrialist, after he was denied access to a "whites only" luxury hotel, as a comparable (or better) facility that would accept everyone.
- =>The Nariman House Chabad Jewish Center established as a welcoming center to both Jewish travelers and the Mumbai Jewish community.
- =>The recent attacks in Pakistan that destroyed vehicles necessary for transporting supplies over the Khyber Pass to NATO forces in Afghanistan.
- =>The expectation of an Afghan Taliban offensive in the spring.
This raises the question, if the attacks originated in Pakistan, who is in charge there? The democratically elected government or the elements of the army and intelligence services that are seemingly aligned with (and/or in charge of) the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, al Qaeda and other similar groups? The prevailing wisdom is to do as much as possible to support the democratically elected government.
That seems to be the approach thus far with India's thankfully measured response. It also may be because India was not the only target when all the dots are connected. In the larger chess-board that is South Asia, the focus shifts to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and the traditional spring offensive that can be expected from the Taliban.
Here are the dots there:
- =>The NATO forces on the Afghan side of the border rely upon the Pakistani army as a backstop during their offensives against the Taliban. If conflict escalates between Pakistan and India over Kashmir (or for any other reason), those troops would likely be pulled to the Indian/Pakistani border.
- =>Peshawar through the Khyber Pass is a supply route for the NATO force fighting on the Afghan side of the border. The maritime start of the Mumbai attacks are thought to have come through Peshawar and there was just a bombing attack on the NATO supply depot that destroyed over 150 vehicles used to supply NATO in Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass.
If you look at what this means, both tactically and ideologically, these dots emerge:
- =>The Taliban has a improved position against NATO in Afghanistan for a spring offensive, a war that has been escalating to their advantage (relatively outside of the news cycle).
- =>The threat to India's commerce, both by the attacks on their commercial center (Mumbai) and on their preeminent industrial family (Tata) points to an al Qaeda 9/11 type long range plan to weaken an enemy through economics.
- =>The attack on the Jewish Center in Mumbai points to an ideology that has not been hitherto evident in India, pointing to an attitude and belief system external in nature that matches this week's statements by Hamid Gul, the ex-ISI chief who supports, by his own statements, both the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Who benefits strategically?
- =>The Taliban.
- =>al Qaeda.
- =>Those who support/control/influence them.
Who was hurt?
- =>First and foremost, those who died or were injured in the attacks.
- =>The NATO troops in Afghanistan and those who supply them.
- =>Indian commerce through both tourism and, as an underlying attempt to weaken industrialism through the impact on the Tata's holdings that include the Taj, which they have vowed to rebuild.
- =>The global economy already in tailspin through the years of mismanagement and war.
The press has been referring to the Mumbai attacks as India's 9/11. Given the impact on India and the larger impact on both the global economy and the ongoing conflicts in South Asia, that seems an accurate assessment.