Time Sq. bomb brings US North Waziristan action closer
The delay in bringing Faisal Shahzad before a federal judge is only one of the anomalies, or mysteries, surrounding this Pakistani American a week after his failed attempt to blow up Time Square with a bomb car, and five days after he was charged with five criminal counts, including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Since being hauled off a Dubai-bound airliner two days later, law enforcement officials say he is cooperating fully with the investigation. But this does not appear to be the case. New York Police chief Ray Kelly remarked: "In these types of situations, you let the information flow, so to speak" – which sounds as though hard information is coming slowly, if at all. Every scrap the suspect may let drop must be tested, cross-checked and fitted into the wider picture, a painstaking process that would necessarily delay Shahzad's arraignment in court.
Friday, May 7, anonymous US security sources disclosed that a money courier was sought who may have funneled cash to the suspect, apparent confirmation that a network was suspected as having plotted the bungled attack, rather than Shahzad operating solo. That courier may also have relayed funds, instructions or explosives for more attacks in America.
Friday, too, an FBI team arrived in Islamabad in pursuit of background information on the suspected bomber – a routine channel of inquiry, were it not accompanied by exceptionally sharp language from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "We've made it very clear that if – heaven forbid – an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences," she said.
She did not elaborate, but debkafile's military sources say that one such consequence might well be the extension of ongoing US-led operations in South Afghanistan to the Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan, home to extensive Taliban and al Qaeda frontline command posts.
That is also where Shahzad told his New York interrogators he had received bomb-making training.
Islamabad has so far resisted Washington's demands to open up a warfront in North Waziristan and is strongly opposed to US special operations forces crossing into that lawless territory. So sensitive is this region that American units going in might even find themselves in collision with Pakistani troops.
In any case, the US-led offensive against the key southern Afghan town of Kandahar, scheduled for June, might have to be postponed or called off. This would require a reassessment of the new surge strategy for the Afghan War President Barack Obama approved last December.
A number of anonymously-leaked disclosures by government sources in Washington suggest that this review is already afoot.
Saturday, the Los Angeles Times revealed that Faisal Shahzad's father, Bahar Ul Haz, a retired air vice marshal living in comfortable circumstances in Peshawar as befits his high rank, was acquainted with the late Pakistani Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud.
Shahzad himself was reported to have been in Waziristan on Jan. 10, 2010, when Baitullah's son and successor Hakibullah Mehsud survived a US CIA drone attack.
This naturalized American citizen with a home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, may have been selected then by Taliban to avenge the attempt on its leader's life by striking at Time Square, New York's bustling heart.
The episode is quickly developing long offshoots, one leading into Pakistan, the other into a US city or cities, objects of Talban threats in several Internet bulletins.
Because their investigation of the American-Pakistani suspect has so far not produced tangible results, American counter-terror authorities are unusually edgy and ready to leap into action for almost 600 calls since the attempted car bombing last week.
The latest false alarm, Friday, closed Time Square briefly and brought the NYPD bomb squad dashing to the scene after a "white cooler" was reported abandoned near the corner where Shahzad parked his bomb-rigged Nissan Pathfinder six days earlier. The suspicious object turned out to be the empty bottles and plastic bag from someone's lunch.
A Times Square street vendor remarked: "I think they're testing us, whoever is doing this. They're playing chess with us right now, but they ain't gonna win.