The South Asia Channel

Close to home in Pakistan

Years of working the al Qaeda problem in cities and tribal areas have taken their toll on Pakistani security services. Hundreds of Pakistani security personnel have been killed in recent years. Pakistan has now been involved in fighting militancy in a civil war for more than twice as long as the American civil war. It ...

Years of working the al Qaeda problem in cities and tribal areas have taken their toll on Pakistani security services. Hundreds of Pakistani security personnel have been killed in recent years. Pakistan has now been involved in fighting militancy in a civil war for more than twice as long as the American civil war. It is difficult to fight and kill your own countrymen for that length of time. But this weekend's events in Times Square, if they lead to an actual link with the Pakistani Taliban, will lead to continuing questions about how we pursue not only the classic al Qaeda target -- typically Arabs and Central Asians who live in the tribal areas and are hosted by local tribal militants -- but also how we press forward a painful dialogue in Islamabad about groups that have been more closely associated with Pakistani security services. In the past year, we witnessed the arrest of a Chicago man linked to the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba and connected to the 2008 massacre in Mumbai. And now we have a man potentially connected with Taliban militants, who have a long history of relations with Pakistani services, dating back to the Afghan fight against the Soviets, who may also be linked with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Pakistan has lost a lot in this campaign, which we should respect. But Pakistan must now work with us to tackle groups that are closer to home, which once were proxies in the fight between India and Pakistan but who are now expanding their targeting horizons to include the United States. The stakes are growing.

Philip Mudd is a senior research fellow with the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation and former deputy director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center and the FBI's national security branch.

Years of working the al Qaeda problem in cities and tribal areas have taken their toll on Pakistani security services. Hundreds of Pakistani security personnel have been killed in recent years. Pakistan has now been involved in fighting militancy in a civil war for more than twice as long as the American civil war. It is difficult to fight and kill your own countrymen for that length of time. But this weekend’s events in Times Square, if they lead to an actual link with the Pakistani Taliban, will lead to continuing questions about how we pursue not only the classic al Qaeda target — typically Arabs and Central Asians who live in the tribal areas and are hosted by local tribal militants — but also how we press forward a painful dialogue in Islamabad about groups that have been more closely associated with Pakistani security services. In the past year, we witnessed the arrest of a Chicago man linked to the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba and connected to the 2008 massacre in Mumbai. And now we have a man potentially connected with Taliban militants, who have a long history of relations with Pakistani services, dating back to the Afghan fight against the Soviets, who may also be linked with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Pakistan has lost a lot in this campaign, which we should respect. But Pakistan must now work with us to tackle groups that are closer to home, which once were proxies in the fight between India and Pakistan but who are now expanding their targeting horizons to include the United States. The stakes are growing.

Philip Mudd is a senior research fellow with the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation and former deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center and the FBI’s national security branch.

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