Brother against Brother – A Missed Chance to Undermine Lashkar-e-Taiba

Yesterday’s Washington Post had an article about Hafez Muhammad Masood, brother of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) leader Hafez Muhammed Saeed.  The article discusses the vast
differences between the brothers, Saeed has a $10 million bounty on his head
under the U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice program for his role, as leader of LeT, in organizing the
November 2008 assault on Mumbai in which six Americans (and over 160 others)
were killed.
Masood, in contrast, lived in Sharon, Massachusetts were he
was renown for his work on Interfaith outreach – especially with the local
Jewish community.  He says he knew
nothing of his brother’s links to terrorism except what he read in the paper.  He was deported for visa violations and is
now back in Pakistan, working for his brother, but he still speaks fondly of
As the co-author of a recent book on LeT this article caught
my interest for other reasons.  The book
discusses computer models of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s behavior.  The major findings are that traditional
security approaches – raids, international sanctions, arrests, etc. – have had
limited efficacy in reducing LeT attacks. 
Forcing the Pakistani government to really crackdown is helpful, but
difficult to do.  But an interesting pair
of policy options were indicated by our research: fostering internal
organizational conflict and undermining the organizational infrastructure
(including its communications, social services, and training activities.)
(If you want more details on this, buy your copy today!  Former DNI Mike McConnell calls it “an invaluable asset to counter-terrorism analysts and policymakers” and “a must read.”)
In that light, Masood could have been an asset to the United
States.  Could he have played a useful
role in public diplomacy or other kinds of information operations against
Lashkar-e-Taiba?  Asking him to speak out
directly against his elder brother might not have been realistic and even have
been counter-productive.  But what about
asking him to appear to make broader statements about the United States to
Pakistani audiences, or raise money for Pakistan and pointedly not send it
through his brother’s organization?  This
is only an off-the-cuff suggestion. 
Presumably far more creative and effective possibilities exist.
The fact that Masood, on his return to Pakistan went to work
for his brother raises questions about his motivations (although there may not
have been a great number of job opportunities for Islamic preachers in Pakistan
– there appears to be a glut.)  In the
article he echoes his brother’s rhetoric, albeit without the fire.  But it is also clear that Masood preferred to
stay in the United States, and his visa violation – rather then being used to
deport him – could have been used as leverage to ensure his assistance.  Whether or not he was “on board” is
irrelevant, he could have been a useful asset and that opportunity was
foreclosed by a strict law enforcement approach.
Another side to this story is the bureaucratic one.  For the U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts this
was an easy case, deport someone on a clear visa violation who had links to
terrorism (the U.S. attorney responsible claimed the case had nothing to do
with Masood’s family links.)  Fair enough,
the Department of Justice charges and tries people.  But the bureaucratic links need to exist to
take advantage of this kind of opportunity. 
Lateral links are needed so that intelligence and public diplomacy
agencies know about the opportunity.  At
the same time vertical links are also needed so that the issue can be kicked up
to a higher level and resolved so that Justice and Defense don’t get into turf
wars.  But most importantly, creative
thinking is needed throughout the government to take advantage of these
Some terrorist groups can be defeated through good
police-work.  But many, particularly
those like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which have state support and a safe haven, can only
be undermined with more subtle strategies.

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