The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Pakistani Taliban “behind” Times Square plot

A global agenda? U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder hit the Sunday talk show circuit yesterday and said, "We’ve now developed evidence that shows that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack," the most definitive official statement to date of the group’s role in the failed Times Square car bombing (Wash Post, CNN, ABC, BBC, AJE, ...

TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images
TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images

A global agenda?

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder hit the Sunday talk show circuit yesterday and said, "We’ve now developed evidence that shows that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack," the most definitive official statement to date of the group’s role in the failed Times Square car bombing (Wash Post, CNN, ABC, BBC, AJE, AP, AFP). Obama administration counterterrorism adviser John Brennan also said Faisal Shahzad, the 30-year-old Pakistani-American arrested in connection with the case, "was working on behalf" of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and is "being cooperative" in the investigation (CNN, Wash Post, Fox, CBS, Reuters). The Times Square plot could signal a TTP shift toward targets outside of Pakistan (AP).

The TTP itself is sending mixed messages about its involvement in the Times Square plot; although spokesman Azam Tariq has twice claimed Faisal Shahzad was not one of theirs, other members of the militant group reportedly circulated messages saying Tariq did not speak for the whole organization (WSJ, Wash Post). Some speculate that Tariq’s denial may be motivated by the desire to avoid a U.S. or Pakistani military offensive against the group’s stronghold in North Waziristan (NYT).

The Obama administration is delivering firm messages to Pakistani officials, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on 60 Minutes that there would be "very severe consequences" if a successful terrorist attack on U.S. soil were traced back to Pakistan (CBS). Top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal reportedly met with Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani on Friday to relay similar sentiments (NYT, Wash Post). Though Pakistani officials have promised cooperation in the investigation in Pakistan, FBI officials have not yet been allowed access to Shahzad’s father, a retired Pakistani Air Force officer (ET).

The Journal gives a brief history of the TTP, while the LA Times reports that another militant group suspected of involvement in the Times Square plot, Jaish-e-Muhammad, operates relatively unhindered by authorities in Pakistan, and the Post considers the nexus of different militant groups in Karachi and across the country (WSJ, LAT, Wash Post, NYT). The LA Times also reports that Shahzad knew a future Taliban leader and one of the future Mumbai attackers when he was a child (LAT). Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai have the weekend’s must-read reporting how jihadist recruiters check for spies  (Newsweek).

Bonus: read the AfPak Channel’s 10 quick takes on the Times Square plot: is it time to go into North Waziristan? (FP).

Shoe therapy

A suspected U.S. drone struck a militant compound in a village some 30 or 40 miles west of Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, on Sunday killing around nine alleged militants (Reuters, AP, AFP, Geo, BBC, Daily Times, AJE). It is the 35th reported strike this year (NAF).

A Pakistani civil engineer wearing tennis shoes with electrical circuits and batteries was arrested on Sunday at the Karachi airport as he tried to board a flight to Oman (CNN, AP, AFP, Reuters). Authorities said earlier today that the shoes were likely used for foot therapy, though could have other applications.

Relationship on the mend

As Washington rolls out the red carpet for Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit this week, the Taliban in Afghanistan have threatened to launch a new campaign of attacks beginning today against "foreigners and their surrogates" (AP, Times, AFP, Reuters, AP, Pajhwok). The Obama administration, having somewhat unsuccessfully tried "tough love," is now shifting toward "a new, more pragmatic approach," giving Karzai "all the trappings of a head of state" during this trip (WSJ, LAT). Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Scott Wilson describe the new approach in detail (Wash Post). The Independent reports that Karzai is trying to drum up support in the Obama administration for his peace plan, and the Afghan leader penned an op-ed in the Post over the weekend (Independent, Wash Post).

The Taliban are also gearing up for the expected coalition offensive in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, as a self-described spokesman for the group sat down for an interview with Laura King, calling Kandahar "our house" and saying, "We are like water that finds its level. It always seeps in" (LAT). Kandaharis say that the normal spring influx of Taliban fighters has been much higher this year (Guardian).

An Afghan official said a man was arrested yesterday for allegedly attempting to break the windows and open the emergency exit of an Ariana Afghan Airlines flight from Kabul to the Iranian city of Mashhad (AFP). A member of the flight crew said the attacker threatened, "If I’d had my knife, I would have taught you all a lesson," and that the attacker also said he was "fed up with my life."

Last month, Australian and Afghan forces reportedly captured Mullah Atiqullah, the Taliban commander responsible for the kidnapping of New York Times reporter David Rohde, and a leader in central Uruzgan province (Herald Sun). A NATO soldier was reportedly killed in conflict with insurgent forces in eastern Afghanistan yesterday, while Afghan civilians were killed in roadside bombings and rocket attacks in Zabul and Helmand (AFP, AP, Pajhwok).

Young teacher

In another installment of the LA Times’ series of offbeat Afghanistan stories, the paper profiles the state of private schools in the country, writing that entrepreneurs are trying to provide private alternatives to underfunded public institutions (LAT). The owner of one of the schools, looking for funding, asked, "Do you know anyone who might be a donor? We will even change the name of a school if a donor requested it."

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