Last week, ten men murdered, maimed, and menaced people in Mumbai to instill fear for political purposes yet to be determined. The terrorists may be affiliated with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a group not widely known to the public but with certain ties to the Pakistani intelligence service and Al Qaeda. With U.S. and British assistance, the Indian government will investigate further and no doubt more information about the terrorists will be uncovered. For now, the United States and its Western allies must learn what is strategic from the Mumbai massacre.
From an operational perspective, the Mumbai terrorists’ tactics were not new or novel. The planning and preparation was thorough. The frontal assault and attacks – hit-and-runs and seize-and-holds – were directed at soft targets to maximize casualties. While some attention has been paid to the amphibious mode of infiltration, we know now that U.S. signals intelligence was passed to Indian intelligence warning of a potential soft target attack via a maritime route. The lack of serious counterterrorism and antiterrorism measures taken is indicative of the larger structural weaknesses in India’s domestic security apparatus.
While the United States, since 9/11, does not have the structural deficiencies of India, we must remember that the terrorists of Mumbai – as most terrorists are – were intelligent, determined, and adaptive. This fact calls to mind what CIA Director Michael Hayden said exactly two weeks prior to the Mumbai massacre: He made reference to a sign inside an operations office at Langley that says, “Today’s date is September 12.” Complacency is no longer an option. U.S. and Western intelligence, law enforcement, and security agencies must maintain patient, steadfast vigilance – the true lesson from the Mumbai massacre.