Pakistan arrests admitted accomplice of Shahzad

As the US continued its investigation of the Times Square bombing yesterday in a series of raids and arrests, Pakistani authorities apparently found the link between Faisal Shahzad and the Taliban training camps.  The man they arrested admitted to being the conduit that took Shahzad to the Taliban to train for his assignment.  However, not everyone has been convinced:

The Pakistani government has arrested a suspect with connections to a Pakistani militant group who said he acted as an accomplice to the man accused of trying to bomb Times Square, U.S. officials said.

The suspect, whose arrest has not been previously disclosed, provided an “independent stream” of evidence that the Pakistani Taliban were behind the attempt and has admitted helping Faisal Shahzad, the main suspect, travel into Pakistan’s tribal belt for bomb training. …

Still, the U.S. determination that the Pakistani Taliban directed the attempted attack is based largely on accounts given by the two men, several U.S. officials said. Authorities have been examining phone records, e-mail and other communication to see whether they contain firmer evidence of links between Shahzad and the Pakistani Taliban.

“What they said has been corroborated by other evidence,” said a senior law enforcement source, who would not specify that evidence, saying it is classified.

Don’t count Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) among the believers, at least not yet:

Although they acknowledged that the investigation is in its initial stages, Obama administration officials are describing an expansive Pakistani Taliban role. In a TV interview Sunday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that “they helped facilitate it . . . they helped direct it . . . and I suspect that we are going to come up with evidence that shows they helped finance it.”

The certainty of Holder’s comments prompted a pointed response from Sen. Christopher S. Bond (Mo.), the ranking Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, who questioned whether such conclusions are premature. After attending a closed-door hearing on the case Tuesday, Bond said, “I am not convinced by the information I’ve seen so far.”

The Post reports that investigators are struggling with inconsistencies and disconnects in the stories of Shahzad and the man arrested in Pakistan.  Both men said that Shahzad met with Hakimullah Mehsud, who had been thought dead after an American Predator drone attack.  It seems a little far-fetched that Mehsud would have sat down with an American, even one of Pakistani origin, after a near-miss attack from the CIA.  There are also conflicts in timing in both stories, but not significant enough to dismiss them out of hand.

Other issues seem more relevant.  Shahzad was in Pakistan a long time after losing his only source of income, but came back flush with cash.  Someone had to have supplied a lot of money to Shahzad, but why?  It looks as though that money came to Shahzad from sources in the US — the people arrested yesterday — but where did they get it, and why did they give it to Shahzad?  It points to a big conspiracy, and if the source isn’t the TTP, it still had to be a source that knew how to move cash through hawala, the Middle Eastern money-transfer networks used to keep the US from tracking cash.

American investigators are also pressing to determine who proposed the attack in the first place.  Most would have assumed that the Taliban or al-Qaeda would have designed the attack and looked for a terrorist to implement it.  However, it may be that Shahzad went to Pakistan to propose the attack himself and find the funding for it.  If so, the Taliban may have just seen this as a target of opportunity rather than part of a wave of attacks on the US — which they probably can’t afford while the Pakistani military puts pressure on them now.