According to the official FBI complaint (PDF), accused bomb-maker Faisal Shahzad received training in a camp in Waziristan, Pakistan.
Waziristan has been a long-held target of US forces, because it is close to the Afghan-Pakistan border and within reach of Kandahar and Kabul. A Taliban stronghold, it has been a prime target for drone strikes.
Over the past 18 months, Pakistan's army has conducted major offensives in six of the seven tribal agencies that border Afghanistan. But the seventh agency -- North Waziristan -- has been left alone. In part, that is because it is home to the Afghan Taliban networks of Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who have close relations with the military and the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). It has also been left alone for good tactical if not poor strategic reasons -- the army has struck deals with the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan not to attack Pakistani forces. Until recently, these deals have held.
That paragraph right there just convinced this long-time ambivalent-about-the-Afghan-war-woman that we need to yank ourselves out of there sooner, rather than later.
There can be no progress in Afghanistan if the ISI are going to let the Pakistani Taliban thrive in Waziristan. The Pakistani Taliban are far more lethal than the Afghan Taliban, and are much more directly involved in the ongoing violence in that region. The only reason in my mind to even make an effort in Afghanistan was to deal with the Pakistani Taliban before they made a move to overthrow the current government and take control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
If the ISI is avoiding Waziristan to coddle the Pakistani Taliban, we're wasting our time and have been. If Rashid is to be believed, we're chasing after will o' the wisps there.
The area is the hub of so many terrorist groups and so much terrorist plotting and planning that neither the CIA nor the ISI seems to have much clue about what is going on there. A year ago, the Pakistan Taliban under Baitullah Mehsud ran a semi-disciplined terrorist movement from the tribal areas that bombed and killed Pakistanis with dastardly methodicalness. Mehsud was killed last year in a U.S. drone strike. What is left is anarchy, as groups and splinter groups and splinters of splinters operate from North Waziristan with no overall control by anyone, not even Jalaluddin Haqqani.
Gosh, sounds like an opportunity to capitalize on weakness. What exactly seems to be the problem here?
Punjabi extremist groups that were once trained by the military to fight Indian forces in Kashmir have splintered from their mother groups and operate out of North Waziristan in alliance with the Pashtun Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda. Inexplicably, one of these Punjabi groups last week executed Khalid Khawaja, a former ISI officer known for his sympathy for al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Who killed Khawaja and why is still a huge mystery. Was it a case of terror eating its own?
It looks to me like he was trying to make the effort look like home-grown terror, too. The fertilizer, gasoline, fireworks combo sounds a lot like Timothy McVeigh's flavor of destruction, doesn't it? Of course, it's easy enough to get the ingredients, too. The FBI complaint makes that chillingly clear.
The FBI complaint raises more questions for me than it answers. Did Shahzad become a US citizen in order to commit an act of terrorism? How did he present himself as a candidate for citizenship? Given that he traveled back to Pakistan after gaining citizenship for the sole purpose of training to blow the smithereens out of some US target which turned out to be Times Square, perhaps it isn't border-crossing people Arizona should fear as much as the ones who actually have their papers.
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