"Al Qaeda is supportive of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.... Al Qaeda is providing them with targeting information and helping them in their plotting in India, clearly with the idea of provoking a conflict between India and Pakistan that would destabilise Pakistan," Gates told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
LeT is balmed for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks [ Images ] that killed 166 people, including foreigners.
Terming the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan as more dangerous than it was a year ago, Gates said it is clear that just on the Pakistani side of the border that Al Qaeda is deeply involved with the the Tehreek-e-Taliban -- in planning attacks against the Pakistani government and people and attempting to destabilise that government.
"Al Qaeda provides them with technical information, provides them with operational information and support," he said.
Noting that the Al Qaeda is very much involved with the Afghan Taliban [ Images ], Gates said they are supporting all of these different groups in ways that are destabilising not just for Afghanistan but for the entire region.
"Al Qaeda is at the heart of it. And whether or not the terrorists are homegrown, when we trace their roots, they almost all end up back in this border area of Afghanistan and Pakistan, whether they're from the United States or Somalia or the United Kingdom or elsewhere," he said.
"So what we see is Al Qaeda, despite their being under pressure and despite their limited numbers and despite the fact that there are few of them in Afghanistan right now, that they are taking advantage of the situation in the region to play a very destabilising and dangerous role," Gates said.
Gates said the Al Qaeda have learned that in ungoverned space, they have the opportunity to recover, reconstitute and reassert themselves, which is exactly what the Taliban did in Pakistan over a period of about three years, and now are in a position where, with their momentum, are challenging -- successfully, to this point significant numbers of modern armies.
"So the point is that if given -- if parts of southern and eastern Afghanistan, once again, come under the control of the Taliban, that would be space in which the -- Al Qaeda could reconstitute itself, very much as the Taliban did in Pakistan just in recent years, and then expand their operations and their capabilities to launch attacks against Europe and the United States and, really, all over the world," Gates told the US Senators.