Daily brief: Times Square suspect inspired by Yemen cleric
Follow the rupees Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has again denied that his militant group was involved in training failed Times Square car bomber Faisal Shahzad, saying, "We don’t even know him," while praising his actions (CSM, Daily Times, ET, CBS, Times, AP). Carlotta Gall and Sabrina Tavernise describe how the ...
Follow the rupees
Follow the rupees
Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has again denied that his militant group was involved in training failed Times Square car bomber Faisal Shahzad, saying, "We don’t even know him," while praising his actions (CSM, Daily Times, ET, CBS, Times, AP). Carlotta Gall and Sabrina Tavernise describe how the TTP has been influenced by al-Qaeda’s global agenda, reporting that al-Qaeda’s number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, met with then-TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud in 2008 in South Waziristan (NYT).
Shahzad was reportedly inspired by the online sermons of the Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who had contact with Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan and failed underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (Wash Post, NYT). And though Shahzad claims to have met with TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud, some officials believe the failed bomber had at most "incidental contact" with militants, who may have suspected him of being a CIA spy (Guardian, Tel, McClatchy, Wash Post). Pakistani’s interior minister continues to say he has seen no evidence of TTP involvement (AP).
The timing of Shahzad’s radicalization trajectory remains murky; the Post reports it "was a gradual thing that started years ago," according to an intelligence official, while CNN writes that Shahzad appears to have become more religious over the last year, which the Times corroborates (Wash Post, CNN, NYT). U.S. investigators are chasing down leads about who may have helped Shahzad finance his plan, and have traveled to Pakistan to interview several alleged members of Jaish-e-Muhammad (AP, ET). The AP profiles a mosque in Karachi run by Jaish, and Karin Brulliard considers how the agenda of traditionally Kashmir-focused militant groups has shifted and converged with the TTP’s focus as Pakistani state support waned (AP, Wash Post).
Shahzad’s attempted bombing has reignited a debate about the presence of U.S. troops in Pakistan, where they are extremely unpopular; officials say some Pakistani officials will likely be more willing to accept more U.S. trainers following the failed attack (NYT).
Details about the drones
More details are emerging about the CIA’s reported new tactic of targeting a wider range of militants with drone strikes in the country’s northwest, fueling the ongoing debate about the range of civilian fatalities in the attacks (AJE, Reuters). Officials claim that 500 suspected militants have been killed since the summer of 2008, when the program picked up speed, including 14 "top-tier" targets and 25 mid- to high-level organizers.
Militants attacked a police checkpoint in Mansehra district, about 120 miles north of Peshawar, earlier this morning, killing four Pakistani policemen (Geo, AP, ET). The attack has not yet been claimed, but Taliban fighters frequently target security forces across Pakistan.
All eyes on Kandahar
Afghan authorities have arrested 16 would-be Haqqani network suicide bombers and Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin rocket attackers, including six Pakistanis, in recent weeks (AP). The threat from roadside bombs in Afghanistan continues to rise, as 60 percent of the some 400 attacks in Afghanistan last week were the result of IEDs (Reuters). During yesterday’s 75-minute meeting in the Situation Room with U.S. President Barack Obama’s war council, top commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the president that his strategy in the country is making "slow but steady" progress (AFP).
As U.S. officials admit that there are not enough competent local officials to take control in Marjah, site of a coalition operation in southern Afghanistan earlier this year, NATO has reportedly decided to try and work with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s controversial half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a powerful figure in Kandahar, the expected site of the next major coalition offensive (AP, LAT, Times). Wali Karzai met with top U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus, over the weekend, and says they discussed his role in the province; a senior coalition official estimated that the "Karzai cartel" makes a billion dollars a year from turnover on coalition contracts for security, construction, food, fuel, and convoy protection.
Eric Schmitt has a must-read describing the interrogation of Mullah Baradar, the captured second-in-command of the Quetta Shura Taliban, who is reportedly providing "useful information" about the structure of the group’s leadership and Mullah Omar’s strategy for negotiations with the Afghan government (NYT). An official confirmed the "useful information" claim again yesterday (AFP).
Raid in Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s agriculture ministry has launched an anti-insect drive in Panjshir province following complaints from orchard owners who were bugged by the critters destroying their crops (Pajhwok). The pests will be dealt with over the course of ten months.
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