The Corner

Operational Link between Pakistani Taliban and Times Square Attack Increasingly Likely

The Wall Street Journal reports this evening that “U.S. and Pakistani investigators are giving increased credence to possible links between accused Times Square bomb plotter Faisal Shahzad and the Pakistan Taliban.”

Initial media coverage immediately following the Times Square attack cast skepticism upon a possible operational link between Pakistan’s Taliban, the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan or TTP. A May 3 statement by TTP spokesman Azam Tariq claiming no knowledge of a video claiming credit for the attack helped drive such coverage.

As the Wall Street Journal report indicates, however, new evidence is leading investigators to increasingly consider links between the TTP and the attack. The report also touches upon the ties two recently arrested individuals had to the Jaish-e Muhammad (JeM) group; such information also indicates a TTP connection may be likely as JeM and the TTP have worked together in the past.

Understanding who is responsible for the bombing is critical not just for bringing individuals to justice, but also for developing an appropriate policy response by the U.S. and Pakistan.

In an article published this evening on CriticalThreats.org, I examine why an operational link with the TTP has become increasingly likely:

An operational link between the Times Square attack and the TTP has been murky following the May 1 bomb attempt. New evidence has emerged and clarified the relationship. The manner in which the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) videos were posted, the criminal complaint against Shahzad, and the relationships between militant groups in Waziristan increase the likelihood that the TTP has an operational connection to the Times Square attack.

It is often difficult to determine exact responsibility for specific terror attacks, not least because militant Islamist groups maintain relationships, interactions, and overlapping interests in ways that make it difficult to dissect and focus on individual groups. Policymakers should avoid focusing solely on counter-terrorism efforts to target individual organizations at the exclusion of examining networks of groups that may encompass a broader and more complex threat environment. All violent militant Islamist groups within the broader violent Islamist network led by al Qaeda threaten American interests, regardless of their specific ties to attacks on Americans or American soil. Any policy response to the Times Square attack must keep this conception of enemy forces in mind.

The Critical Threats Project will continue to monitor developments in Pakistan as they occur.

 – Charlie Szrom is senior analyst and program manager for the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.

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