The South Asia Channel

The Taliban’s suspicion

Among the many questions raised by Faisal Shahzad’s failed Times Square bombing attempt — his possible links to the Pakistani Taliban, his ability to board a plane despite being on a no-fly list — one is particularly vexing. How was Shahzad, despite receiving training in Pakistan, so incompetent when it came to building and detonating ...

Among the many questions raised by Faisal Shahzad's failed Times Square bombing attempt -- his possible links to the Pakistani Taliban, his ability to board a plane despite being on a no-fly list -- one is particularly vexing. How was Shahzad, despite receiving training in Pakistan, so incompetent when it came to building and detonating a bomb?

A possible answer can be found in the trial of five Pakistani-Americans arrested in Sargodha last year for planning terrorist attacks. Their testimony revealed that they had tried really hard to join the Pakistani Taliban but had been rebuffed at every turn. Experts I spoke to at the time were not surprised; apparently, the Taliban automatically assumes that any American who seeks to join their ranks is a CIA spy.

In the case of Shahzad, it is entirely likely that the Taliban gave him only rudimentary training and had no expectation that he would succeed. If the bomb attack did go off, they get a major victory; if it failed, then no harm done. If this is indeed what happened, then U.S. interrogators are unlikely to get much intelligence out of Shahzad beyond the names of a few very low-level Taliban members.

Among the many questions raised by Faisal Shahzad’s failed Times Square bombing attempt — his possible links to the Pakistani Taliban, his ability to board a plane despite being on a no-fly list — one is particularly vexing. How was Shahzad, despite receiving training in Pakistan, so incompetent when it came to building and detonating a bomb?

A possible answer can be found in the trial of five Pakistani-Americans arrested in Sargodha last year for planning terrorist attacks. Their testimony revealed that they had tried really hard to join the Pakistani Taliban but had been rebuffed at every turn. Experts I spoke to at the time were not surprised; apparently, the Taliban automatically assumes that any American who seeks to join their ranks is a CIA spy.

In the case of Shahzad, it is entirely likely that the Taliban gave him only rudimentary training and had no expectation that he would succeed. If the bomb attack did go off, they get a major victory; if it failed, then no harm done. If this is indeed what happened, then U.S. interrogators are unlikely to get much intelligence out of Shahzad beyond the names of a few very low-level Taliban members.

Nadir Hassan is a journalist for the Express Tribune, a recently launched English-language newspaper in Pakistan.

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