WASHINGTON — Pakistan-based terrorist groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, will shift their operational focus on India after the scheduled complete drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year, a top Pentagon commander has warned.
"Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Pakistan-based groups continue fighting in Afghanistan, but they will likely shift some of their operational focus to the Indian Subcontinent in the next one to three years as Coalition forces drawdown," Admiral Samuel J Locklear, Commander of US Pacific Command told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.
"Al Qaeda's increased rhetoric focused on South Asia and the announcement of a new affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, suggest Al Qaeda will focus resources on uniting established terrorist groups to engage in jihad in South Asia," Locklear said.
Noting that the ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq attracts foreign fighters from countries throughout the Indo-Asia Pacific, Locklear said current assessments indicate that approximately 1,300 foreign personnel fighting alongside the Islamic State are from the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
"A small number of these combat-experienced fighters who return home could enhance the capability of regional extremist networks within the most densely populated areas of the world," he said.
"In South Asia, partner nations maintain pressure on extremist networks but face a persistent threat from transnational groups that continue adapting to shifting geopolitical factors, competition among global extremist groups, and counterterrorism actions by the US and its regional allies," he added.
The US recently said it would soon make an announcement on troop adjustment in Afghanistan.
Those remarks had come in the wake of repeated requests from new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that the US should reconsider its decision on complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
During his maiden trip to Afghanistan, new US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter had said that he would consider the pace of drawdown of troops from Afghanistan based on conditions on the ground.