Lorraine Adams with Ayesha Nasir in The Guardian:
On 1 May 2010, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born naturalised American citizen residing in Bridgeport, Connecticut, drove an SUV loaded with explosive devices to the corner of 45th Street and Seventh Avenue in Times Square, New York. He began the detonation process, walked away, and took a train back to his apartment. The bomb failed to ignite. Police found him easily through the car’s serial number. He was arrested on 3 May on board an Emirates flight to Dubai that had pulled away from the gate but had not yet been cleared for take-off.
Bridgeport is a beat-down city of 140,000, only half and hour away from yacht-friendly Westport on the Manhattan-bound commuting coastline. An abandoned port hobbled by lower-than-average incomes and education, it seems an unlikely place to call home for Faisal Shahzad, the 31-year-old, MBA-graduate son of an eminent Pakistani father. Shahzad rented a second-floor apartment (for $1,150 a month) in a three-storey tenement similar to others on the block. Recently renovated, his was the cleanest. Even so, its pale-biscuit siding was gimcrack vinyl, its chalk-white trim a flimsy metal. The garage in the back, where he assembled the bomb inside his Nissan Pathfinder, was missing its door and guarded by a barking dog on a heavy chain. More:
Ahmed Rashid at NYRB Blog:
The Pakistani media is in a state of apoplexy about the would-be Times Square bomber, the Pakistani-born US citizen Faisal Shahzad. Predictably a great many commentators in the press and on the non-stop talk shows that run on over 25 TV news channels have discussed whether it was a CIA plot to embarrass Pakistan or provide an excuse for American troops to invade us: Was Shahzad an Indian or Israeli agent? And in any case, why should Washington hold Pakistan responsible, since he was an American citizen?
Not surprisingly, the Zardari government, the army, and Pakistani politicians have also muddied the waters. Although the government has said it will fully cooperate with US investigators seeking to find out which extremist groups trained Shahzad and where, Islamabad continues to fudge the paramount issue—the need for Pakistan to launch a comprehensive campaign against all extremist groups rather than the hit-and-miss anti-terrorism measures it is presently pursuing. That selective campaign leaves untouched the Afghan Taliban based in Pakistan—including Mullah Omar and other top leaders—who are not killing Pakistanis but are organizing attacks against US troops in Afghanistan; it also has ignored the Punjabi Taliban groups who have been attacking Indian nationals and government buildings in Kashmir, Kabul, and elsewhere, as well as killing numerous Pakistanis in suicide bombings in Lahore and other cities.
Both the Zardari government and the press have also made much of the conflicting statements by US officials, with Hilary Clinton threatening Pakistan with dire consequences if it does not deal with terror attacks, while General David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command, and other military officials suggesting that Shahzad may have been a lone wolf. But what about the US press? More:
Art Keller at Foreign Policy. Keller is a former case officer for the Central Intelligence Agency. He participated in counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda in the FATA of Pakistan in 2006:
Attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad claims he received explosives training in Waziristan, Pakistan, the heartland of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a militant group closely allied with al-Qaeda. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has publicly stated that Shahzad was both directed and financed by the TTP. Yet Shahzad’s alleged militant pedigree reconciles very poorly with the ineptitude of his attempted attack, which raises more questions about his background than it answers.
- Was Shahzad simply a poor bomb-making student/incompetent jihadist?
- Was the training he received unsuited for conducting attacks in the U.S. context?
- Despite claims of a six month sojourn in Waziristan, did he really get any bomb-training?
One place to look for answers is the improvised explosive device Shahzad cobbled together. The FBI’s criminal complaint against Shahzad describes an IED constructed of 153 M-88 fire-crackers, three propane tanks, two five-gallon cans of gasoline, bags of fertilizer, and two alarm clocks connected to wires.
A demolition and pyrotechnic expert with 23 years of experience, Matt Kutcher, deconstructs Shahzad’s device in an interview:
Click here to read more and and the video of the bomb factory.
Pervez Hoodbhoy in Dawn:
As anti-US lava spews from the fiery volcanoes of Pakistan’s private television channels and newspapers, a collective psychosis grips the country’s youth. Murderous intent follows with the conviction that the US is responsible for all ills, both in Pakistan and the world of Islam.
Faisal Shahzad, with designer sunglasses and an MBA degree from the University of Bridgeport, acquired that murderous intent. Living his formative years in Pakistan, he typifies the young Pakistani who grew up in the shadow of Ziaul Haq’s hate-based education curriculum. The son of a retired air vice-marshal, life was easy as was getting US citizenship subsequently. But at some point the toxic schooling and media tutoring must have kicked in.
There was guilt as he saw pictures of Gaza’s dead children and related them to US support for Israel. Internet browsing or, perhaps, the local mosque steered him towards the idea of an Islamic caliphate. This solution to the world’s problems would require, of course, the US to be destroyed. Hence Shahzad’s self-confessed trip to Waziristan.
Ideas considered extreme a decade ago are now mainstream. A private survey carried out by a European embassy based in Islamabad found that only four per cent of Pakistanis polled speak well of America; 96 per cent against. More:
From The New York Times:
The evidence of ties between the man accused of being the Times Square bomber and Pakistani militants has intensified debate inside the Obama administration about expanding America’s military presence in Pakistan, with some officials making the case to increase the number of Special Operations troops working with Pakistani forces in the country’s western mountains.
The American military presence in Pakistan has already grown substantially over the past year, and now totals several hundred troops, part of a largely secret program to share intelligence with Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops and train them to battle militant groups.
But the failed bombing in Times Square, and evidence that the accused man, Faisal Shahzad, received training in a camp run by the Pakistani Taliban, has given support to those who want to expand the mission.
In particular, some inside the administration believe that the C.I.A. program of killing militants from the air is insufficient for preventing attacks on the West, and that an expanded training mission might raise confidence in Pakistan’s military enough to launch an offensive in the militant sanctuary of North Waziristan, in the tribal areas. More: