A report by Mark Mazetti and Scott Shane in The New York Times of May 5, 2010, stated that according to some officials, there was as yet no "smoking gun" pointing to the involvement of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan or the Pakistani Taliban in the attempted car bombing in New York's Times Square on May 1. It, however, stated that others pointed out that there was strong evidence that the TTP was involved and that Faisal Shahzad, arrested in connection with the case, knew some members of the organisation which had a hand in training and directing him.
The truth will doubtless come out as investigations proceed. Meanwhile, it is important to note a paragraph in the report which stated: "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 organisations plotting attacks in Pakistani cities, across the border into Afghanistan, and on targets in Western Europe and the United States."
This is hardly surprising. Various terrorist organisations like the TTP, the group led by Sirajuddin Haqqani operating from North Waziristan, the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, all draw their leaders and rank-and-file from Pakistan's terrorist-manufacturing madarsas. These outfits had played a key role in providing shelter and support to Al Qaeda and the Taliban leaders who fled Afghanistan following the US-led invasion of that country in October-December 2001.
While ploughing their separate furrows, they have always come to one another's assistance in the face of common enemies. Thus, the TTP and the Afghan Taliban, decided to act together as it became clear, following US President Barack Obama's ascent to office, that the number of American troops in Afghanistan would increase substantially. A report by Carlotta Gall in The New York Times of March 26, 2008, stated: "After agreeing to bury their differences and unite forces, Taliban leaders based in Pakistan have closed ranks with their Afghan comrades to ready a new offensive in Afghanistan as the United States prepares to send 17,000 more troops there this year."
Significantly, Ms Gall added in her report, "At the same time, American officials told The New York Times this week that Pakistan's military intelligence agency continued to offer money, supplies and guidance to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan as a proxy to help shape a friendly Government there once American forces leave."
There have been continuing indications that Pakistan's military intelligence agency, the Directorate-General of Inter-Services Intelligence and sections of the Pakistani military have been aiding the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The fact that Faisal Shahzad comes from a family with a military background — his father is a retired Air Vice-Marshal and his uncle a retired Major General — is significant. Even if his father and other relatives had opposed his becoming a jihadi, the atmosphere in cantonment towns at a time of growing Islamisation of the Pakistani military initiated by General-turned-President Zia-ul Haq, could not have been without an influence on him.
This strengthens the question mark against the role of the Pakistani military on which the Obama Administration relies so heavily for success in the war in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Army has been obliging it only as far as it wants to. As late as December 2009, Pakistan rebuffed American pressure to act against the Afghan Taliban, holed up in North Waziristan. According to a report by Jane Perlez in The New York Times of December 14, 2009, Pakistani Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's response, as indicated by two officials familiar with it, was that Pakistan had its hands full fighting the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan and other places, and it was beyond its capacity to open another front against the Afghan Taliban. She then added that implicit in General Kayani's reply was the fact that the homegrown Pakistani Taliban represented the real threat to Pakistan. They were the ones carrying out attacks against security installations and civilian markets in Pakistan's cities and must be the Army's top priority.
On the other hand, Afghan Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani fought in Afghanistan and was considered more of an asset than a threat by Pakistan. At the core of this approach, Ms Perlez suggests, lay scant faith in President Obama's troop surge and the belief that Haqqani's support would be vital to Islamabad in the jostling for influence in that country that will pit Pakistan, India, Russia, China and Iran against one another after America's exit from the scene.
As late as January 2010, while US Defence Secretary Robert M Gates was visiting Pakistan, the Pakistani Army's chief spokesman, Maj-Gen Athar Abbas, told reporters at the Army's headquarters in Rawalpindi, that the military had no immediate plans to launch an offensive against extremists in the tribal region of North Waziristan, as American officials have repeatedly urged. Rather, the Pakistani military establishment has been harping that there is no way that the US could win in Afghanistan and the only way out is a settlement that includes the 'moderate' Taliban.
The 'moderate' Taliban is, of course, a myth. Mr Ahmed Rashid wrote in Descent Into Chaos, "The most elusive chimera that the CIA pursued, with the encouragement of the ISI, was that 'moderate' Taliban Pashtuns would rise to denounce Mullah Omar, hand over Osama bin Laden to the Americans, and join a new coalition Government in Kabul." He added, "Where the ISI succeeded was in manipulating the US media, particularly The New York Times and The Washington Post, convincing them that it was earnestly trying to create moderates among the Taliban." The reality was that the ISI Director-General (1999-2001), Lt-Gen Mehood Ahmad, "was not promoting moderates but trying to ferret them out so they could be exposed and betrayed to Mullah Omar once again. The threat of death hung over any Taliban leaders if they (sic) betrayed Mullah Omar or the ISI. It was a masterful double game that the ISI was to play with even greater dexterity after 9/11".
One hopes that credible indications of the TTP's involvement in the attempted bombing in Times Square will finally bury the myth of the 'moderate' Taliban. To be safe from terrorism, the US must crush all sections of the Taliban, even if that requires applying some very harsh measures against Pakistan.