Before any real investigation had been carried out into the attempted terrorist bombing on New York’s Times Square last week, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano had almost immediately dismissed it as a “one-off” thing. General David Petraeus, head of US Central Command, was also quick off the mark, saying the terrorist behind the plot, Faisal Shahzad, 30, who traded his Pakistani citizenship for American last year, was a “lone wolf.”
But last weekend the truth came out when Attorney-General Eric Holder was forced to admit what many suspected all along. It was another act of international Islamic jihad against the United States, and faceless murderers in Taliban/ al Qaeda terrorist organizations, based in Pakistan and motivated by their undying resolve to kill as many Americans, were the string-pullers.
“We’ve now developed evidence that shows that the Pakistan Taliban was behind the attack,” Holder said on the ABC program, This Week. “We know that they probably helped finance it. And that he (Shahzad) was working at their direction.”
With Holder’s admission, the question remains as to why a government that told people not to jump to conclusions concerning a connection between the Fort Hood massacre and Islamist terrorism was so quick to erroneously declare the Times Square bombing a solo, one-time operation? In the Fort Hood killings, Major Nidal Malik Hasan was also initially described as a lone gunman, whose motives were unclear, although he was shouting “Allahu Akbar” during his murderous rampage. President Obama himself cautioned against any premature judgement, even though his own intelligence agencies knew for months Hasan had been trying to make contact with al Qaeda-connected people.
“We don’t know all the answers yet,” Obama said at the time. “And I would caution against jumping to any conclusions until we have all the facts.”
But in the case of the failed Times Square bombing the facts were already in, some of them for a long time. The United States is in a worldwide war with radical Islam, a concept some still have difficulty with. As a result of this war, according to one analyst, America was the target of about a dozen terrorist attacks within its borders last year alone. Only the Fort Hood strike was successful, costing 13 lives while another 30 were wounded.
In one of the thwarted attacks, also potentially the most deadly, an Afghan residing legally in the United States, Najibullah Zazi, 25, was arrested last September along with two others for planning three suicide attacks on the New York subway. Zazi, like Shahzad, had also received weapons and explosives training at a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. Zazi pleaded guilty last February and will be sentenced in June.
However, it was the arrest of two men of Pakistani origin in Chicago last year on terrorism charges that indicated how deeply the al Qaeda/ Taliban terrorist network had spread in America. Rather than use the two Chicago residents, David Headley and Tahawwur Rana, the former an American and the latter a Canadian citizen, to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States where they lived, an easier proposition, the terrorist leaders sitting in Pakistan confidently used them to help carry out the most devastating terrorist attack of 2008: Mumbai. Headley, using his American passport and Rana’s business as cover, traveled several times to India to scout out potential targets before the attack and to gather information. The two men’s sinister activities remained undetected in both India and America.
Headley would also travel to Pakistan where he would drop off his reports to Ilyas Kashmiri, the mastermind behind the Mumbai attack and allegedly the head of al Qaeda’s military operations. When arrested, Headley and Rana were carrying out reconnaissance in Denmark for another Kashmiri-planned terrorist attack, this time against the Danish newspaper, the Jyllands-Postens, which printed the Muhammad cartoons. Kashmiri was indicted at the trial that saw Headley plead guilty to terrorism charges last March.
When the investigation is complete concerning the failed Times Square bombing, it would not surprise if Ilyas Kashmiri’s name pops up once more. South Asian affairs analyst B. Raman describes Kashmiri as seeing himself as another Khalid Sheikh Mohammad who wants “to carry out a spectacular terrorist strike in a Western country.”
American intelligence indicated Kashmiri’s importance by subjecting him to three drone attacks in the past. Kashmiri, who also heads al Qaeda’s secretive 313 Brigade, granted a Pakistani journalist an interview last October after his death was reported in the third attack to prove he was still alive and planning further terrorist strikes in India, Europe and North America.
“They are right in their pursuit. They know their enemy well. They know what I am really up to,” he told the interviewer with pride.
The fact the Pakistani Taliban rather than al Qaeda at first took credit for helping Shahzad and then later retracted its claim is probably an attempt to deceive. Raman writes there is really no knowing what the relationship is between the Pakistani Taliban, Ilyas Kashmiri and his 313 Brigade. He further observes that the terrorist scene in Pakistan is “getting murkier and murkier” and not even Pakistan’s leaders know exactly what is going on.
The fact that so many terrorist plots in America and elsewhere have led back to Pakistan, why then would Napolitano and General Petraeus hastily conclude the Times Square bombing was a “one-off”, “lone wolf” deed? What drives such speedy, and misleading, utterances and presidential warnings not to jump to conclusions is the White House’s fear of a backlash against Muslims living in America. Such a backlash, it is believed, would not only play into the Islamists’ hands and adversely affect the War on Terror, but would also jeopardise Obama’s stated desire to build bridges to the Islamic world.
But while such fear may be understandable, it only serves to hinder people from drawing the proper conclusion: Islamic terrorism is a very real danger to Americans and the threat is growing. And that is something that can’t be denied.