The South Asia Channel

The case of Faisal Shahzad

The case of Faisal Shahzad

My thoughts on the arrest of Faisal Shahzad are up over at Think Tank.

Providing an accurate e-mail address to the seller of a vehicle you intend to use as a murder weapon is the sort of mistake that might get a person’s membership card pulled down at the terrorist union hall. No doubt Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested in the Times Square car bomb case, is having a bad day. It will probably get worse if he spends time in his holding cell reflecting on the trail of breadcrumbs he apparently left behind while planning what the evidence available so far suggests was the only act of violence committed during his young life as a U.S. citizen. If not for that e-mail address, Shahzad might already have stepped off an airplane in Karachi, ready to melt away into Pakistan.

Terrorists are adaptive, self-correcting, and cunning — except when they aren’t. For all of his error-making as an individual, however, Shahzad’s case may actually reflect on how Pakistani-based jihadi groups have learned to protect themselves. According to news reports, Shahzad spent several months in Pakistan before returning to the United States and deciding on his plot. This would make him one of at least half a dozen U.S. citizens or residents to travel to Pakistan as alleged volunteers during the last several years.

For the rest, visit my New Yorker blog.

Steve Coll is the president of the New America Foundation.