Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told top Indian security officials in New Delhi Friday that the Pakistan-based terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) is as much of a threat as al-Qaida.
"The LeT is ranked right up there with Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-related groups as a terrorist organization, one that seeks to harm people and take innocent lives," Napolitano said in a joint press conference with Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram. "In the US perspective, the LeT is an organization of the same ranking as the Al Qaeda-related groups."
Napolitano's assertion came in the midst of the trial of Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana, accused of complicity in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. A key witness in the trial, American-Pakistani David Coleman Headley, who has admitted to involvement in the attacks, has also implicated LeT and the Pakistani Intelligence service (ISI). LeT, however, denies any involvement.
The U.S. would make Headley more available to Indian authorities following the conclusion of his trial, Napolitano said. She refused to comment, however, on the role of the ISI in the 2008 plot.
Napolitano was visiting India as part of the first round of Indo-U.S. Homeland Security talks aimed at increasing strategic cooperation between the two countries who agree they face a common threat.
A key focus deals with India's suspicion that Pakistan continues to support terrorism despite international pressure. In a statement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that U.S.-Pakistani relations had reached a turning point following the killing of Osama bin Laden, but that Pakistan must "take decisive steps in the day ahead" to combat terrorism.
Clinton's remarks followed a meeting with civilian and military leaders in Pakistan aimed at restoring ties between the two nations after the U.S. launched a unilateral and secretive strike on bin Laden in Pakistan's borders. Clearing Pakistan's top officials from any guilt in sheltering bin Laden, Clinton still cited other issues plaguing Pakistan, such as corruption and extremism, and emphasized that the United States cannot solve Pakistan's problems despite being a "very good friend" and providing the nation with billions of dollars in aid. Such troubles, she asserted, ultimately must be solved by Pakistan's leadership