Remember, until this point, the only evidence that there was a Taliban link was that videotape put out on Saturday night in which bombmaker-in-chief Qari Hussain took credit for the attack. We knew that Shahzad trained in some sort of camp, but Pakistan is like a big Mos Eisley cantina of jihadis. Could have been any number of groups who trained him. As it turns out, thought, it appears Hussain wasn’t just blowing smoke in that video.
Ironically, Shahzad’s status as an American citizen may have tripped him up.
U.S. and Pakistani investigators are giving increased credence to links between Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad and the Pakistan Taliban, with one senior Pakistani official saying Mr. Shahzad received instruction from the Islamist group’s suicide-bomb trainer…
Mr. Shahzad received training in explosives in a camp run by Qari Hussain, the official said. Mr. Hussain is a senior commander with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistan Taliban’s formal name, and trains suicide bombers, the official said. Mr. Hussain is also a cousin of Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistan Taliban’s chief. The 30-year-old Mr. Shahzad has admitted to investigators that he received training from militants in Waziristan, U.S. officials said…
One thing that puzzles U.S. terrorism experts: the lack of sophistication in the planned attack, considering Mr. Hussain’s reputed expertise and emphasis on suicide bombs. One theory is that Mr. Shahzad may not have been fully embraced or fully trained by the Pakistan Taliban, who may have been suspicious of a U.S. citizen seeking training.
“They may not have shown him all their tricks, but just set him loose. If he pulls off an attack, great, they got a ‘freebie,’ and if not, no harm done,” said Brian Fishman, a terrorism analyst at the New America Foundation in Washington, a think tank that focuses on security issues.
There were rumors floating around this afternoon that Shahzad had met personally with Hussain, but I don’t know if that’s been nailed down yet. As for the theory about why he messed up the bomb, I don’t get it. If they were worried he’d chicken out, wouldn’t they also be worried that he’d rat them out — an incredibly dangerous prospect considering the free rein given to U.S. drone pilots nowadays? Once you decide to let him into the camp, what’s to be gained by not showing him how to build a bomb correctly? I think the error has to be on his end somehow.
Pakistan’s reportedly pinched more than a dozen people related to the plot, most of them linked to Jaish-e-Mohammed. JeM tends to focus on attacks against India to “liberate” Kashmir, which makes sense here: Shahzad is of Kashmiri descent, so he probably hooked up with them for that initially and then got steered around towards attacking the U.S. given the advantage he had in (re)entering the country. Read Roggio’s post for a brief primer on how incestuous the Taliban, JeM, Lashkar e-Taiba, and other jihadbot outfits in the area are vis-a-vis training. Oh — JeM was also the group that got in contact with the five Americans from the D.C. suburbs who went looking for jihad in Pakistan last year. Funny how they keep finding our citizens, and vice versa.
Update: The NYT has also raised the alarm about Taliban connections tonight, and hits on the Mos Eisley point:
American officials said it had become increasingly difficult to separate the operations of the militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The region, they said, has become a stew of like-minded organizations plotting attacks in Pakistani cities, across the border into Afghanistan, and on targets in Western Europe and the United States.
Besides the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda, groups operating in the tribal areas are the Haqqani Network and the Kashmiri groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad.
Another good point:
Some American officials bristled at the idea that the United States had not taken the Pakistani Taliban threat seriously.
“We’ve been pounding their leadership, including figures like Baitullah Mehsud, and their training camps and other facilities,” one American counterterrorism official said. “Those actions have probably taken other people like Shahzad off the board.”
Yeah, Shahzad may be the jihadi equivalent of a Double A pitcher sent up to the majors because everyone else is on injured reserve. No surprise when it turns out he’s inept.