Obama Administration Blames, and Warns, Pakistan Taliban Over Times Square Plot

By Patrick Goodenough | May 10, 2010 | 4:51 AM EDT

This photo provided by NBC shows U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaking on "Meet the Press" in Washington on Sunday, May 9, 2010. Holder said new evidence shows the Pakistani Taliban was ‘intimately involved’ in the bomb plot in Times Square. (AP Photo/NBC, William B. Plowman)

(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration has linked the Pakistan Taliban to the recent Times Square bomb plot, warning of “very severe consequences” if a future attack traced back to Pakistan succeeds.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not elaborate on her warning, aired on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday but recorded on Friday, saying when asked to do so, “I think I’ll let that speak for itself.”
Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday the Pakistan Taliban, also known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was “behind” the failed bid to detonate a car bomb in the busy New York City district on May 1.
“We know that they helped facilitate it. We know that they probably helped finance it, and that he was working at their direction,” Holder said on ABC News’ “This Week,” referring to Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American arrested as he tried to fly out of the U.S. on May 3.
Shortly after the attempted attack, the TTP claimed responsibility and said American cities had become its key targets, but U.S. law enforcement officials said at the time there was no evidence to back up the claim.
The attempted attack has focused attention again sharply on Pakistan, and especially the lawless North Waziristan district of the tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan where Shahzad told investigators he had recently received bomb-making training. The Pakistani army has been fighting the TTP in parts of the region, but not so far in North Waziristan, where an assortment of terrorists, including al-Qaeda fighters, are reportedly holed up.
The New York Times reported at the weekend that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, had urged Pakistan’s army chief “to move more quickly in beginning a military offensive against the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda in North Waziristan.”
Pakistani officials reported that at least 10 militants in North Waziristan were killed by missiles launched from an unmanned U.S. drone on Sunday.
Both Clinton and Holder said the Pakistan government had been cooperating in the investigation, but both also said the U.S. expected more.
“This is a threat that we share, we have a common enemy,” Clinton said. “There is no time to waste in going after that common enemy as hard and fast as we can, and we cannot tolerate having people encouraged, directed, trained and sent from Pakistan to attack us.”
Security analysts say one reason Islamabad has been reluctant to act in North Waziristan, a mountainous area a little smaller than Delaware, is because of the presence there of some groups whose India- or Afghanistan-focused activities it has historically supported or condoned.
They include the notorious Afghan Taliban network headed by veteran anti-Soviet Pashtun fighter Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin, which operates against U.S. and coalition forces cross the frontier in eastern Afghanistan. The U.S. government last year offered a five million dollar reward for information leading to Sirajuddin Haqqani’s capture.
“The Haqqani network, considered an ‘asset’ for Pakistan in its ‘strategic depth’ policy in a post-U.S. Afghanistan, has been given a free hand for far too long now,” Pakistan’s Daily Times said in an editorial Monday.
“Haqqani has not only given a safe haven to the al-Qaeda leadership in North Waziristan but is also involved in providing assistance to the Punjabi terrorists,” it said, referring to Pakistan’s most populous province.
The paper said that Clinton’s comments could be read as saying that the U.S. “wants us to go after the Haqqani network,” and failure to do so could lead to repercussions ranging from stepped up U.S. air strikes to invasion.
“Thus it is time for us to let go of our reluctant posture on North Waziristan and take some concrete action before the US does something sinister.”
Since 2001, the U.S. has given Pakistan approximately $7.2 billion in so-called Coalition Support Funds (CSF), reimbursements intended to aid Pakistan’s fight against terrorists. The most recent transfer, of $656 million, was made last week, to cover some of costs incurred in operations during 2009, according to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. In addition to CSF funds, Pakistan has received a further $4 billion in U.S. civilian and security assistance over the last three years.
Governments in India have long accused its neighbor and historical foe of playing a double game, taking U.S. funding and cooperating with U.S. counter-terrorism efforts where it suits Islamabad but continuing to give quiet support to terrorists fighting against India or in some cases, in Afghanistan.
“All terrorist groups operating from Pakistani territory pose a threat of mass casualty terrorism wherever they can operate successfully,” the director of the India-based Institute For Topical Studies, Bahukutumbi Raman, said on Sunday in response to queries about collaboration between the TTP and other terrorist groups in north-west Pakistan.
“One cannot differentiate between terrorist groups operating against India, groups operating against the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan and groups planning terrorist strikes in the U.S. homeland or in Europe,” said Raman, a former senior Indian counter-terrorism official. “All have to be treated as the enemy of the international community and neutralized.”
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow