Counterterrorism expert Stephen Tankel, author of Storming the World Stage, the
story of Lashkar-e-Tayiba, is a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie
Endowment, where his research
focuses on insurgency, terrorism, and
the evolution of non-state armed
You must have heard about the
Indian mole in the 26/11 attack,
codenamed Honey Bee?
I have read the claims about Honey
Bee and the additional indigenous
support Lashkar may have received.
It would not shock me to find out the
ISI (Pakistan’s spy agency Inter
Services Intelligence) had recruited
an Indian agent, just as it would not
shock me to know RAW (Research
and Analysis Wing, India’s external
intelligence agency) had recruited a
Nor would I be surprised that
Lashkar had indigenous support for
Mumbai, as it has received for other
attacks in the past.
So, all of this is theoretically feasible.
Whether any of it is true, I have no idea.
How has the structure of the Lashkar-e-
Tayiba changed in the five years after
Overall, the structure looks similar from
the outside, though the group has probably
done some internal tinkering. Lashkar also
launched additional front groups over the
past five years, partly in response to the
pressure it came under following the 2008
Along with Jamaat-ud-Dawa, some of those front
groups are members of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council.
Additionally, its presence in Afghanistan and
across Pakistan expanded. And, of course, its
social media offerings have increased, as
anyone who follows JuD on Twitter knows.
Do you think the ends of justice have been
met where the sentencing of David Headley is
I understand why Indians want Headley
extradited and are dissatisfied with his serving a life sentence in the United States.
However, the terms of his plea deal with the
US make that highly unlikely.
He has provided American officials a lot of information,
The 26/11 terrorists
much of which has been shared with their India counter-
parts. One expects, and hopes,
it has been used to prevent
other attacks and degrade mili-
tant groups like Le T that both
countries consider a threat.
appeared to have a free run for
nearly 20 hours of the attack.
Why do you think it was so easy
Whether or not the claims
about Honey Bee are accurate,
it’s impossible to escape the
fact that the Indian response
was seriously lacking.
There were individual acts of
heroism and sacrifice, and we
should not forget these.
Collectively, however, the
authorities were not well
enough equipped or prepared
to deal with the attack.
Pakistan is conducting a trial
of the attack. Do you think they
will be able to convict Hafiz
Saeed and/or Zaki-ur Rehman
Hafiz Saeed has not been
arrested. Lakhvi has been in
jail since soon after the 2008
Mumbai attacks. I don’t anticipate he’ll be convicted any
time soon, but I would be happy to be proven wrong.
What do you think of America’s handling of Pakistan fol-
lowing this attack?
United States officials worked closely with their counterparts in India to identify Lashkar-e-Tayiba as the culprit
and quickly trace the attack back to Pakistan.
From what I understand, the US also put pressure on
Pakistan to arrest the perpetrators and crack down on
Le T. Clearly, the results were far from satisfactory.
I know some in India believe the US does not take the
Le T threat seriously, but I believe Washington clearly recognizes it as a problem. Unfortunately, like New Delhi, it
has yet to find a workable solution.
EXPERT DOESN’T RULE OUT
Yusuf Safdari, senior counsel, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, California, was at the Taj hotel
on the night of November 26, 2008.
“This attack is now a part of my life, and
I feel that I am now a small piece of
Indian history even though I am an
American citizen,” Sardari told India
In November 2008, he was in India on a
business trip. His father — Dr Yahya B
Safdari, who came to the United States
from Amravati, Maharashtra, in 1964 —
accompanied him to visit family.
Yusuf Safdari said they were sitting in
the Shamiana restaurant at the Taj, and
he left his father there to use the restroom
at the back of the lobby.
He was walking towards the hall behind
the elevators, Sardari said, when he saw a
glass window shatter. He heard gunshots.
He spun around and caught a glimpse of
a terrorist with a gun in his hand.
“If I was a few seconds late, I would
have been at the front of the lobby where
most people were hurt immediately,” said
He rapidly ran around a corner away
from the shooter. There were only two
options for him at that moment –– a
bathroom without windows or a Kashmiri
rug store that had an open door with a
The glass front was clear; so anyone
could see inside. He said he chose to enter
the rug store where he saw a shopkeeper
and another guest.
“I was extremely worried about my
father,” Safdari said. “I was also very wor-
ried about my wife, children and family in
case something should happen to me, and
I could not be there for them.”
Safdari heard many gunshots after that.
After a while, the gunshots grew faint. He
thought the attack was over and started
walking towards the lobby, but he was
intercepted by staff at a bookstore by the
elevators. They told him to seek shelter in
the bookstore because the attack was not
“I had no way to communicate with my
father because I did not have a cell phone
with me. I stayed for many tense hours in
the bookstore with men, women and chil-
dren,” Safdari said.
Around midnight, Safdari said, some Taj
staff entered the store and told them they
would help them flee if they wished to,
“We decided to make a run for it,”
Safdari said. “We fled out the front of the
Taj with the guidance of the Taj staff who
only had walkie talkies and no firearms.”
“Outside, we saw Indian police and
many media trucks. We ran to the
Gateway of India and to safety. I immedi-
ately began asking around to see if some-
one had seen my father. I called America.
My brother told me my father was tem-
porarily safe inside the Taj. I spoke to my
father, and I was relieved.”
“I stood outside the whole night as the
attack unfolded. In the morning, we were
evacuated to another Taj property. I was
told that my father would meet me there
so I agreed to go. I can still remember the
emotions that I felt at the time. The maxi-
mum stress that I felt was not knowing if
my father would be fine since he was
trapped in the Taj for many hours after
my escape. I was so relieved when we
How does he look back on that fateful
night, five years later?
“I have a mixture of feelings,” he replied.
“I am very thankful for the prayers of
many that my father and I emerged safely
from this attack on India and its innocent
people. I feel sorrow for those who were
injured or killed in this senseless attack. It
was an experience I can never forget.”
Over time, Safdari said he has tried not
to let the experience affect him.
“I don’t want to give that victory to the
people who perpetrated this attack. It
brought home the lesson to me that there
are people out there who see some goal in
attacking innocent people and maximizing damage,” he said.
Would he visit the Taj again?
“Absolutely,” he said. “I want my children
to be very familiar with India and their
relatives in India. Many of my best memories are from my visits to India, including the sights, the sounds, the people and
visits with my relatives. I often think
back on this experience and consider how
fortunate we were to escape with no
harm. My memory of the event is still very
detailed, as if burned into my mind.”
‘Still very detailed, as if burned into my mind’