An interesting hypothesis I’ve been meaning to write but just haven’t. Ahmed Rashid, for BBC, beats me to the punch:
The group that attacked Mumbai may well include some Pakistanis, but it is more likely to be an international terrorist force put together by al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taleban, who are besieged by the Pakistan army on one side and a rain of missiles being launched by US forces in Afghanistan against their hideouts on the other.
Al-Qaeda is looking for some relief and a diversion.
What better way to do so than by provoking the two old enemies – India and Pakistan – with a terrorist attack that diverts attention away from the tribal areas?
Such a move would force Pakistani troops back to the Indian border while simultaneously pre-occupying US and Nato countries in hectic diplomacy to prevent the region exploding.
A diversion such as this would preserve extremist sanctuaries along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and would provide militants with a much needed respite – especially considering that in the next few months President-elect Barak Obama is due to send an additional 20,000 US troops to Afghanistan, backed by more Nato troops.
What’s more, recognizing the likelihood of this motivation can provide a meaningful platform for Pakistani-Indian rapprochement. Meanwhile, I’m not sure how likely the occurrence of such a positive step really is, but the generally restrained behavior from both countries has been an important first step.
On a totally unrelated note, my inability to prove that this is something I had hypothesized before Rashid put it in writing reminded me of this. Happy Friday.