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US intelligence expert says Patil is incompetent

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | November 28, 2008 11:28 IST
Last Updated: November 28, 2008 11:29 IST

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Walter Andersen, a former senior Administration official, who headed up the State Department's South Asia Division of the Intelligence and Research Bureau has said the Mumbai terrorist attacks showed clearly a failure of India's intelligence and security apparatus and also the utter incompetence of Home Minister Shivraj Patil [Images].

"Clearly there was failure here of India's intelligence and security and also the security units were slow in responding, which means that the whole system really needs to be revamped," he said.

Andersen, currently associate director of the South Asia Program at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, told, "I am surprised that after several terrorist incidents, the government hasn't moved faster to get something much more effectively in place."

"You have a totally incompetent home minister, and why he isn't removed is beyond me," he said, "He really doesn't know how to get the bureaucracy organised to have some sort of coordinated planning."

Anderson noted, "And, of course, it happens on the eve of state elections and this cannot be helpful for the Congress party," and he recalled that "like in this country, the economic problem had 'many fathers' but then of course, people blamed the (Bush) Administration."

He predicted that "it's likely to be the case in the Indian context as well."

On the terrorist attacks, he said, it was to be expected that if would be focused on 'soft targets' as it was. "This is often the norm in terrorist targets anyway -- these soft targets. So, it is not surprising that they would have done that in this case."

"It was an extremely well coordinated and sophisticated attack and it undoubtedly had some kind of larger context. I think they were trying to send out some kind of message. People have been saying that Kashmir is the cause of it, (but) I am not sure that that is necessarily the case," he said.

Andersen said, "I believe they want to make an impression that they can strike anywhere and anytime and the larger objective is not Kashmir -- the larger objective is to set off Hindu-Muslim problems in India. I think this has long been one of their objectives."

He acknowledged that in the wake of reports that the terrorists had set up control rooms in the two hotels ahead of time, showed that "this was a sophisticated, well-planned set up. This is something that takes months of planning."

Andersen also said the claim of Deccan Mujahideen, like the earlier claims by Indian Mujahideen [Images] for terrorist attacks across India, was simply "an effort to show that it is domestically oriented. There maybe an element of that but now that there are reports that they apparently came from a 'mother ship' that was off the coast, and they were speaking Punjabi -- they are from Pakistan."

He acknowledged that "this could have an al Qaeda hallmark as well �well planned and that sort of thing. And, this Deccan Mujahideen is definitely a dummy organisation."

Andersen said the targeting of Americans and Britishers by the terrorists was clearly because "the US is associated closely with India and it's obviously an effort to show Americans that we can strike you too."

When asked if there wasn't any way the US intelligence and Indian intelligence could have had some indication considering their cooperation and the sophisticated counter-terrorism equipment and other intelligence gathering methods being used, he said, "If a person's willing to kill themselves, it's really hard to control it ahead of time."

"And, in this case, they came from ashore, outside the country."

But Andersen argued that more than US-India intelligence cooperation, "there probably may need to be better coordination  (intelligence) between India and Pakistanon this, but up to now, the intelligence agencies haven't trusted each other sufficiently to really cooperate."

He agreed that it doesn't help that India believes that the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence is responsible for some of the attacks since it allegedly trains and funds terrorist movements and networks operating in India. There is now apparently evidence even among US intelligence that it was the ISI that was behind the bombing several months ago of the Indian embassy in Afghanistan.

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