Posts Tagged ‘ Times Square ’

Pakistan Leaders Must Make Choice After Clinton’s Warning

By The Bloomberg News Editorial Board

When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Pakistan last week, she noted that U.S.- Pakistani relations were at a turning point after the killing of Osama bin Laden. It was up to the Pakistanis, she said, to decide “what kind of country they wish to live in.”

The brutalized body of investigative journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, which turned up outside of Islamabad on May 31, may provide a clue to the answer.
Shahzad disappeared after publishing the first of two promised articles linking elements of the Pakistan navy to al- Qaeda following a deadly May 22 attack on a Karachi naval station. Last fall, after being questioned about a different story by Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Shahzad wrote that he was threatened by the spy agency.

Alternatively, it could be that foul play like Shahzad’s murder will become a thing of the past in Pakistan. While in Islamabad May 27, Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen demanded authorities take “decisive steps” to crush the violent extremists the government has long supported, which would end the need to intimidate journalists who expose that support. Whichever way the Pakistan government goes, the May warnings by the U.S. ought to be the last.

The U.S. administration has continued to insist, as President Barack Obama did in a May 22 interview with the BBC, that the Pakistanis have “generally been significant and serious partners against the terrorist threat to the West.” This simply isn’t the case.

Victim, Sponsor

For much of the past decade, Pakistan has been both a victim and a sponsor of Islamic militants. Its soldiers are fighting bravely against homegrown terrorists seeking to install an Islamic government. In 20 attacks in May, these radicals killed some 150 people.

At the same time, the Pakistani army, led by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is a longstanding patron of violent groups targeting Afghanistan and India.
Guided by excessive fear bordering on paranoia about India, Pakistan’s military and intelligence services believe that nurturing those extremists is an effective way to frustrate India’s regional ambitions. The ISI largely created and continues to support the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, the principal groups battling U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the fledgling government in Kabul. It also backs Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group responsible for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people.

Double-Dealing

President George W. Bush’s administration tried to end this double-dealing by giving Pakistan billions in economic and military assistance. Yet Bush didn’t make the aid contingent on a crackdown on extremists. The Pakistanis cooperated somewhat with U.S. efforts to dismantle al-Qaeda but refused to act against other groups, including the Afghan Taliban, which was given refuge inside Pakistan’s borders.

The Obama administration accelerated the failed Bush policy, substantially increasing military and economic assistance, again without imposing rigorous conditions. And Pakistan continued to ignore administration warnings about continued support for extremists.
In one incident reported by the Washington Post, Obama’s first national security adviser, James Jones, warned officials in Islamabad that there would be “consequences” if a terrorist attack directed at the U.S. was traced to Pakistan. Yet when a man who had trained at a terrorist camp in that country attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in May 2010, the U.S. administration did nothing. Shortly thereafter, Obama watered down Jones’s words, telling Kayani that a “successful” attack would have consequences.

Meaning Business

So when U.S. authorities learned that Osama bin Laden might be housed in a villa in a Pakistani garrison town, they dispatched Navy Seals to capture or kill him without so much as notifying the Pakistanis in advance. The raid provoked great outrage from officials in Pakistan. Since then, emotions have cooled. Clinton and Mullen have delivered their warnings, public and private. And this time, the Americans may mean business.

Will the Pakistanis respond?

Shahzad’s murder is a bad sign. On the other hand, reports from Pakistani tribal leaders suggest that the Pakistani army may be preparing a serious campaign in North Waziristan, where the leaders of the Haqqani Network and other extremist groups live.
It will soon be clear whether Clinton’s latest message got through. If not, the administration must consider new ways to persuade Pakistan to change course, recognizing that the country is behaving more like an adversary than a partner.

Militant Factions With Global Aims Are Spreading Roots Throughout Pakistan

By Karin Brulliard and Pamela Constable for The Washington Post

KARACHI, PAKISTAN- Terrorism suspect Faisal Shahzad’s alleged path to Times Square reflects what experts say is a militant support network that spans Pakistan and is eager to shepherd aspiring terrorists from around the globe. In this teeming southern metropolis, authorities are focusing on a domestic militant outfit that might have escorted Shahzad to distant northern peaks where U.S. investigators allege he received training with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Pakistani Taliban. In Pakistan’s heartland, extremist organizations freely build compounds and campaign with politicians, while their foot soldiers fight alongside the Taliban in the borderlands, intelligence officials say.

The overall picture is one of a jumbled scaffolding of militancy that supports al-Qaeda and the Taliban with money and safe houses, and can provide entrance tickets to mountain training camps for aspiring terrorists, one U.S. counterterrorism official said. Although the planners of most serious terror plots against the West in recent years have received direction or training from groups in the Afghanistan Pakistan border region, the reach of extremist organizations across Pakistan underscores the limits of Pakistani military offensives and of U.S. airstrikes that target the Taliban and al-Qaeda only along the frontier.

“Our cells are working everywhere,” one Pakistani Taliban fighter said in a telephone interview. New foreign recruits, among them Europeans and Americans, undergo days of isolation and “complete observation” by militants outside the tribal areas before gaining access to camps, he said.
Many such aspirants do not make it, the Taliban fighter said, because they are deemed to be spies. That happened to five Northern Virginia men, who were rebuffed by Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-i-Taiba last year despite the reference of an online recruiter, according to Pakistani authorities. However, those aspirants deemed sincere represent a “one in a million” opportunity for militants to strike in the West, said Masood Sharif Khattak, a former Pakistani Intelligence Bureau chief. Their first stop is typically not the mountains of Waziristan, where Shahzad told U.S. investigators he had trained, but 1,000 miles south in Karachi, the Taliban fighter said.

An Arabian Sea gateway of 18 million people, the city is awash in weapons and dotted with mosques where, police say, jihadist literature is freely distributed and clerics deliver vitriolic anti-American sermons. Among them is the Bath’ha mosque and seminary, an unassuming building known locally as a bastion for Jaish-e-Mohammed, a banned Kashmir-focused group. Authorities said they have arrested a man at the mosque who escorted Shahzad to the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Operatives from Pakistan’s array of jihadist groups find haven in Karachi’s multiethnic sprawl; Afghan Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was arrested in the city earlier this year.

The groups form a nexus, according to recent local intelligence reports. One report, obtained by The Washington Post, warns of coordinated plans by the Pakistani Taliban — a group based in the tribal areas that has focused its attacks inside Pakistan — and the traditionally anti-India militant groups of Punjab province. The target: NATO supply convoys in Karachi.

Farther north in the expanse of Punjab, experts say the major anti-India militant groups and other radical Sunni organizations need little cover: They are tolerated and even supported by the state. Banned groups such as Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed have formed organizations with new names that operate freely. Some of their leaders have been arrested for alleged links to terrorist attacks, then released by the courts.
The groups have in recent years increasingly focused attacks within Punjab as provincial officials have tried to placate them, both to capitalize on their popularity and in hopes of moderating their views.

The chief provincial minister, Shahbaz Sharif, was widely criticized in March for calling on the Pakistani Taliban to “spare Punjab,” which he suggested had common cause with the militants by rejecting Western dictates. Another provincial minister visited the seminary of a banned group and campaigned for office with the leader of another. Jaish-e-Mohammed recently built a large walled compound in the southern Punjabi city of Bahawalpur.

“These groups have not been touched,” said Ahmed Rashid, a leading Pakistani expert on the Taliban and Islamist extremism. “They have been through a metamorphosis and turned their guns inward and linked up with other groups in the northwest, but no one is acknowledging it. The word is out that if you hang with them, you’re safe.”

The counterinsurgency tactics used in the tribal areas — missiles and military operations — are widely thought to be unfeasible in Pakistan’s populous mainland. But critics say Pakistani police, security agencies and officials could at least start to clamp down on extremist organizations by vocally condemning them, monitoring mosques and madrassas and denying public space and private property to militant-linked groups.

Pakistan says it is still investigating the extent of Shahzad’s militant links; some security officials have said that he definitely had ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed. Terrorism analyst Muhammad Amir Rana said that what appears to be a lack of political will to tackle militant organizations in Pakistan’s heartland is actually rooted in a problem with far greater implications for the global battle against terror: The groups’ reach and presence in cities has made them a beast that cannot easily be dismantled. “It’s very complex,” Rana said. “They have infrastructure in all different areas.”

Media Ignore The Fact That Man Who Alerted Police To Failed Times Square Bombing Is A Muslim Immigrant

By Zaid Jilani for ThinkProgress.org

The chief suspect in the case of the failed Times Square car bombing is Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, who has confessed to the plot. Much of the media has latched onto Shahzad’s Muslim faith and his Pakistani identity, making inflammatory remarks and suggestions about Muslims and Pakistanis:

– CNN contributor and Redstate.com blogger Erick Erickson complained that the words “muslim” and “Islam” are “not mentioned” enough in stories about Shahzad. He wrote, “It really is pathetic that you’re more likely to see the words “racist” and “Republican” together in the newspaper these days than “terrorism” and “Islam.” [5/4/2010]

– Hate radio host Neal Boortz tweeted, “OMG! The Times Square Bomber is a Muslim! Shocker! Who would have believed it?” [5/4/2010]

– The cover of today’s Washington Post-published Express features a black-and-white photo of Shahzad with the sensationalist headline “MADE IN PAKISTAN” [5/5/2010]

Yet one fact being ignored in the American media’s sensationalist narrative about the failed bombing is that the man who was responsible for police finding the bomb was Muslim. The UK’s Times Online reports that Aliou Niasse, a Senagalese Muslim immigrant who works as a photograph vendor on Times Square, was the first to bring the smoking car to the police’s attention:

Aliou Niasse, a street vendor selling framed photographs of New York, said that he was the first to spot the car containing the bomb, which pulled up right in front of his cart on the corner of 45th street and Broadway next to the Marriott hotel.

“I didn’t see the car pull up or notice the driver because I was busy with customers. But when I looked up I saw that smoke appeared to be coming from the car. This would have been around 6.30pm.”

“I thought I should call 911, but my English is not very good and I had no credit left on my phone, so I walked over to Lance, who has the T-shirt stall next to mine, and told him. He said we shouldn’t call 911. Immediately he alerted a police officer near by,” said Mr Niasse, who is originally from Senegal and who has been a vendor in Times Square for about eight years.

As the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights notes, “South Asian, and Muslim communities may yield useful information to those fighting terrorism. Arabs and Arab Americans also offer the government an important source of Arabic speakers and translators. The singling out of Arabs, South Asians, Muslims, and Sikhs for investigation regardless of whether any credible evidence links them to terrorism will simply alienate these individuals and compromise the anti-terrorism effort.”

Reflecting on Niasse’s good samaritanism Muslim-American author Sumbul Ali-Karamali writes, “It’s somewhat consoling to know that the man who first noticed the smoking Nissan Pathfinder and sought help is also Muslim, a Senegalese immigrant. … I grew up Muslim in this country, with Muslim friends and non-Muslim friends, and there was very little difference between the two groups. We were all American.”

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