This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.
News from Mumbai was an unwelcome guest at many a family’s Thanksgiving last week, a disturbing demonstration of terrorism’s continued threat.
A series of coordinated attacks on India’s financial capital had left 143 dead as of this writing. India is no stranger to terrorist bombings, but the scale and organization of last week’s attacks distinguishes them.
The terrorists apparently were prepared for a standoff. On Friday, two days after gunmen struck luxury hotels, a train station and other spots frequented by tourists and foreigners, Indian commandos were still struggling to end the siege.
Concerns that the assault could prompt a showdown between India and arch-enemy Pakistan were temporarily eased Friday by Indian leaders’ careful public statements and Pakistan officials’ pledges of cooperation in the investigation.
But tensions remained high and could grow as the probe into the attacks continues. Late Friday, American intelligence and counterterrorism officials were zeroing in on a Kashmiri militant group with past ties to Pakistan’s spy service, although the sources said there was no evidence the Pakistani government was involved in the attacks.
Pakistan’s new president, Asif Ali Zardari, has declared that Kashmiri militants are terrorists, but he has yet to prove he has control of intelligence agencies that have propped up Taliban extremists in the past.
The stakes are high for the United States and specifically the incoming Obama administration. It needs for India and Pakistan to be focused on fighting terrorism, not each other.
Even if outside groups are found to have had a hand in Wednesday’s assault, Indians will have to come to terms with the Islamic extremists in their midst. Clues point to homegrown terrorists who knew their targets well – in some cases, better than Indian security forces.
Such is increasingly the face of global terror. It is not enough to hobble al-Qaida when dozens of like-minded groups stand at the ready to do battle on their own turf.
President-elect Barack Obama seems to understand that the United States cannot win the war on terror without on-the-ground partners. But so do the terrorists.
Obama’s agenda abroad to build new alliances will likely end up being one of the biggest tests of his presidency.
For a country that’s been absorbed by its own economic woes as of late, the attacks in Mumbai are a graphic reminder that national security cannot be ignored.