Next big terrorist attack on US will be postmarked 'Pakistan': CIA analyst


New Member
Mar 31, 2010
WASHINGTON: A former CIA analyst, who helped President Barack Obama formulate his Pakistan-Afghanistan policy, sees "a very serious possibility that the next mass casualty terrorist attack on the United States will be postmarked Pakistan."

"What we're seeing going on in Pakistan now is a very dangerous phenomenon," says Bruce Riedel, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, in an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, a Washington think tank.

"The ideology of al Qaida, the ideology of global Islamic jihad that all jihadists should focus on the United States as the ultimate enemy, is gaining ground with groups beyond al Qaida," said Riedel, who chaired a special interagency committee last year to develop Obama's Af-Pak policy.

Obama and previous Bush administrations have been pressuring Pakistan for years to shut down completely the jihadist Frankenstein that was created over three decades in Pakistan, Riedel said. But "no Pakistani government has yet been willing to take on the entire network of terrorist groups."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also raised questions about some in the Pakistani government still retaining links to al Qaida, the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and a host of other groups.

"We saw this in 2008 in Mumbai, when Lashkar-e-Taiba attacked Mumbai and attacked American and Israeli targets," Riedel said noting "Those are the targets of al Qaida and the global Islamic jihad."

"We've now seen the Pakistani Taliban try to launch an attack on the United States of America for the first time," he said referring to the arrest of Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad in connection to the failed car bombing in New York's Times Square.

"This spreading of the idea of global Islamic jihad is very dangerous and as it gets deeper and deeper into the extremist groups in Pakistan it means we can expect more attacks like the one we saw at Times Square, and we can expect them to become increasingly sophisticated and more capable," Riedel said.

Clinton has warned of "severe consequences" for Pakistan in the event of a successful Pakistan-based terrorist attack in the United States.

But US options to act against Pakistan are "severely limited," Riedel said arguing the best option is "to get Pakistan to do more now" in its fight against extremism, he says, by providing more weapons and technological aid.
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Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Americans un-united on Pakistan postmarked terror

S Rajagopalan

One had expected that the Times Square incident would reinvigorate the lost spirit of 9/11 and lead to Pakistan emerging as the new Afghanistan in the hurt American worldview. But no, it was back to placatory postures.

An axiom still to be disproved in the generally rocky US-Pakistan relationship is that it is Islamabad which stands to benefit from every crisis of its making. So it has been over the past couple of weeks since the botched bid to bomb New York's Times Square was traced to a Pakistani American, trained by the Pakistani Taliban in the art of bomb-making in a Pakistani lair in the lawless tribal tracts of North Waziristan.

No less a personage than the US Secretary of State has had to virtually eat her words after some tongue-lashing at Islamabad following the conclusion of US agencies that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the Times Square plot. With Pakistani lawmakers protesting against her "tirade", Clinton's top aides did a quick about-turn. They have since ended up highlighting her praise for the "sea change" in Islamabad's attitude towards combating terror and explaining away her warning of "very severe consequences" if the next major terror bid on American soil is traced to Pakistan.

Washington clearly does not want to antagonise Islamabad beyond the bare minimum. So when some irate lawmakers suggested that the Obama administration should cut off its massive aid to Pakistan if it failed to cooperate, the State Department promptly ruled out such a prospect, voicing satisfaction with the cooperation the US was getting from Pakistan. It, however, looks to Islamabad to launch a robust military offensive in North Waziristan, something that it has been reluctant to undertake so far.

President Barack Obama himself was guarded last Wednesday when an Afghan journalist asked him about Pakistan's troublesome policy towards her country. Suggesting that Pakistan has begun to recognise that its primary concern is not India, but the "cancer" of terror in its midst from groups that were allowed to congregate over a period, he took care to say: "I am actually encouraged by what I've seen from the Pakistani government over the last several months." He also made the point that it may take Pakistan some more time to find a way to effectively deal with the extremists in areas that have been loosely governed from Islamabad.

Can the US flex its muscle a little more? Will it take matters into its own hands in North Waziristan, the staging ground for the likes of the Al Qaeda and the Taliban? Bruce Riedel, a leading South Asia expert who has served in three US administrations, reckons that the US's options to act against Pakistan are "severely limited". This is regardless of a very serious possibility that the next mass casualty terrorist attack on the United States will be postmarked Pakistan. As he put it in an interview to the Council on Foreign Relations, a stiff diplomatic demarche is not going to satisfy anyone and the best option may be to "get Pakistan to do more now".

Riedel, who chaired a specially-constituted inter-agency panel that helped develop President Obama's Af-Pak policy last year says military options are unattractive in dealing with a country with nuclear weapons that is determined to defend itself. If there is another terrorist attack that is traced to Pakistan, the first option should be to press the Pakistanis to move into North Waziristan. It will be very difficult for the US to take unilateral action as it would infringe Pakistani sovereignty and risk a conflict with that country, he says, adding: "There are no attractive options for dealing with this. The best option is to get Pakistan to do more now."

Robert Grenier, CIA's former chief of station in Islamabad and a director of CIA's counter-terroorism centre, believes that whatever the current level of engagement, US-Pakistan relationship cannot withstand a significant terrorist attack on the US homeland, should it emanate from Pakistani soil. But he, too, cautions that a cross-border US combat military presence in Pakistan would be disastrously counter-productive.

It is not a matter of whether, but of when there will be another significant terrorist attack in the US. And if, God forbid, it involves some link to Pakistan, as well it might, there will be hell to pay. The open question is: Just what would the US do? The Times Square incident has already begun to generate the usual pressures for expanded drone attacks in Pakistan, and even for consideration of a direct US military presence," Grenier notes in an article written for Al Jazeera.

Lisa Curtis, the South Asia specialist at the Heritage Foundation and a former State Department staffer, reckons that the Times Square development may well drive the future direction of relations between the US and Pakistan that are already strained by mutual mistrust and differing perceptions of regional security. While Islamabad moved swiftly to detain and question Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad's contacts and family members, she sees a testing time ahead when Washington will most likely want access to those detained.

Curtis feels the US demand could fuel pubic controversy at a time when many Pakistanis distrust the US to the point that they believe the entire Times Square case may be a conspiracy against Pakistan. "Moreover, if it turns out he (Shahzad) had links to India-related groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad or Lashkar-e-Taiba, Washington's efforts to cooperate with Islamabad will become strained unless Pakistan's military takes steps to sever ties between its intelligence services and these groups, and to neutralise their operational capabilities," she says.

The Times Square terrorist attempt highlights the need for Pakistan to deal firmly and unambiguously with all terrorists, including those targeting arch-rival India. The challenge for America remains convincing Pakistani leaders that pursuing comprehensive and consistent anti-terrorism policies does not mean sacrificing a 'strategic asset'," says Curtis, who has served in the US missions in New Delhi and Islamabad in the 1990s.

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