May 4th, 2010
12:46 PM ET

Are the Pakistani Taliban about to go global?

Unlike al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban organization (the Tehrik-i-Taliban or TTP) has shown little appetite for taking its brand of jihadism beyond the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Maybe that's changing.

Certainly that's the case if the messages from the TTP's leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, are to be taken at face value. "From now on," he says in an audio message said to have been recorded in April, "the main targets of our fedayeen [fighters] are American cities. This good news will be heard within some days or weeks. Today onwards, the direction of our jihad is American states and cities. Inshallah we are successful in this mission and objective."

The TTP does not lack a motive to lash out. In recent months it has come under increasing pressure as the United States has intensified drone strikes and the Pakistani army has carried out offensives against the group deep inside its safe haven in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Officials are keeping an open mind about any link between the Taliban and the failed car bombing in New York last weekend. Within hours of the incident, an audio message purportedly from Qari Hussain Mehsud (a senior member of the TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack. "This attack is a revenge for the great and valuable martyred leaders of mujahedeen," he said. At first intelligence analysts discounted the message (not least because of specious claims by the group in the past), but as more information emerged about the incident, it has received renewed attention.

Very occasionally in the past the TTP has made threats about launching attacks overseas. Before he was killed by a drone strike last year, the group's then leader, Baitullah Mehsud (no direct relation to Hakimullah or Qari Hussain) told reporters: "Very soon we will take revenge from Amer­ica, not in Afghanistan but in Wash­ing­ton, which will amaze the entire world." And he added: "The max­i­mum they can do is mar­tyr me." They did - but not before Mehsud made an outlandish claim that the TTP were responsible for a shooting rampage in Binghamton, New York, that left 13 people dead. (A Vietnamese immigrant carried out the attack before killing himself.)

The question for counterterrorism officials now is whether the threats by Hakimullah Mehsud to attack targets in the United States is bluster or carries real menace.

The TTP was officially formed in 2007 when a number of hard-line Islamist groups demanding the introduction of Sharia law in Pakistan came together in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. They had already murdered scores of tribal elders to clear the area of rival authorities.

The TTP's ambitions were at first confined to the tribal territories bordering Afghanistan. But by 2009 it was challenging Pakistan's heartlands and its establishment, with attacks on police academies, government buildings and army convoys as far away as Lahore and Rawalpindi. It has also cooperated closely with the Afghan Taliban and attacked NATO convoys and pre-positioned supplies on their way to Afghanistan. But it was the Taliban's widening campaign against the state that led the Pakistani Army to launch major offensives last year in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan.

There has been just one documented example of the TTP showing more global ambitions. On January 19, 2008, 12 Pakistanis and two Indians were arrested in Barcelona, Spain. Ten were charged - along with another suspect later detained in the Netherlands - with involvement in a conspiracy to carry out suicide bomb attacks on Barcelona's subway system. Several of the conspirators had arrived from Pakistan in the weeks before they were arrested.

Soon after their arrest, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said: "The Barcelona cell appears to have ties to a terrorist training network run by Baitullah Mehsud." Several months later a TTP spokesman, Maulvi Omar, acknowledged in a video: "The one in Barcelona was conducted by 12 of our men.

They were under pledge to Baitullah Mehsud and TTP has already claimed responsibility because of Spain's military presence in Afghanistan."

The 11 ultimately charged were convicted and sentenced to jail terms of eight to 10 years in December last year. Much of the prosecution's case was based on an informant inside the cell who said he had been trained in the use of explosives in Waziristan, the TTP's stronghold before the Pakistani army offensive.

To date, the Barcelona case remains the only credible example of the TTP's capability to take its fight overseas. But other Pakistani groups have shown an ability and desire to broaden their targets. Lashkar-e-Taiba recruited American David Headley to reconnoiter and plan an attack on the offices of the Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005. He was arrested on his return to the United States last year - before any attack was carried out - and pleaded guilty to charges connected to the conspiracy.

Headley also confessed to involvement in reconnaissance for the Mumbai attacks by Lashkar in November 2008.

For its part, the TTP has developed both its alliances and capabilities closer to home, most notably joining forces with al Qaeda for the attack on a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan that killed seven CIA employees and contractors last December. And last month it launched a complex but unsuccessful attack on the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar.

Intelligence analysts believe that as the attempted car bombing in Times Square was so poorly executed, it would be surprising if the TTP were closely involved.

soundoff (128 Responses)
  1. Maak

    I wonder whatever happened to ' innocent until proven guity', the bedrock of the American justice system. Invading countries and dropping bombs on innocent civilians, taking out wedding parties and throwing all norms of civilized discourse down the toilet, is not what the doctor ordered for the menace of terrorism. American taxpayers do not realize why all this is happening to them They are creating more terrorists than they are eliminating. This should have been a police operation, not a military solution of 10 years with no result.

    On the other side the Taliban/Al-Qaeda groupies are simple rebels without any real cause, while their politicians/arms dealers/military industry/countries with axes to grind etc. are only using them to furthur their own monetary/political/corporate interests.Into this mix are the injustices in Palestine by Israel. Israel is a country that lives of the American taxpayer, whereas Arabs/muslims have fed America with cheap oil for decades.

    May 14, 2010 at 5:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dinesh

    Pakistan's Policy on Terrorism:- Bypass the Blame towards Afghan Taliban or AlQueda or deny the involvement of their Home Growns, if failed Solicit for Proof, if Proved Accept without Responsiblity and ask for Aid Help.

    May 10, 2010 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. capeX

    The comments below refer to countries India US Pakistan , C'mon guys focus on the article, its Lashkar -E-Toiba , Al Qeda and TTP v/s rest of the world. Focus Focus...

    May 10, 2010 at 3:50 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jay

    @Osman, you lost me. What are you saying if US somehow manages to stop the mexican illegal immigrants Pakis will stop blowing themselves and others with them. Most likely even the illegals are avoiding areas in US where there are too many pakis.

    May 10, 2010 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
  5. Bill

    Guys Please be on topic and do not fight each other, just remember one thing that whatever you see on news paper and media it is a one side of the story and what goes behind it you being a lay man would never know about it.

    Regarding TTP going global, YES they can only if CIA wants them to be global.

    May 10, 2010 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. Osman

    @Jay

    Actually, in Jammu and Kashmir under Indian administration have a 60% muslim majority. Also, in any case, one should be more concerned with the influx of violent Mexican illegal immigrants than potential terrorist bombings.

    May 9, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jay

    @Osman, Tell me why should I not be cautious about you or other Pakis in Central New Jersey blowing themselves up if I were to make a visit there?

    May 9, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jay

    @Osman, Kashmir is muslim majority. You don't have to quote bbc for me. Some other parts of Jammu & Kashmir state is hindu or buddhist majority. What is your point?

    May 9, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. patriot

    If the Afghan taliban – pak taliban nexus is troubling due to their strong bonding with Al-qaeda, its even more troubling to note that Kashmiri islamic terrorist groups (Lasker-e-Taeba or LET and the Jeish e muhammed or JEM groups especially )are still enjoying the tacit support of Pakistan's ISI (intelligence) have shown clear links to Paki – taliban group.. When the NY times square bomber's last visit and movements is Pakistan were traced by investigators , it was noted to have shown him frequent a Mosque that was owned by a terrorist group LET chief (same group that carried out the Mumbai attacks). So this sure makes it clear the 'gobal reach' these groups are getting to be...

    May 9, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Confused Citizen with Questions...

    Is it an attempt to push blame way from just Pakistan in general to a "Pakistan Taliban" group? Isn't that obvious? Is it Pakistan PR or WR damage control? And is it really the Taliban?

    Okay, sure, Taliban... but, why was this bomber on a b-line to the United Emirates? To Dubai? What's there? A way to head back to Pakistan's Taliban areas?

    Does the bomber know people...well, probably does know people in Dubai...what's the connection? And are those connections possibly connected to previous administrations? I know that's a conspiracy type question but I just find it all rather odd.

    May 9, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. LDMPrdkchz

    Now the threat is real. Had that bomb went off in New York alot of people would of died. It wasnt a mock bomb mission. That validates the necessity for change or even the expansion of U.S. inner security. Not into other sects but strictly terrorism. How do u accomplish suh a feat without the injust racial profiling? Therin lies the problem. Since Obama was elected race has been to the forefront as a serious issue. Right? Race has always been an issue between the true sides of america. Racist and Non Racist. America in the vast majority is an influx of the rest of the world. Our people with the exception of American Indians whom were swindled out of their land they righfully inhabitated of course. Another way to fight terrorism and help our own economy is to employ more americans in the goverment. Set the bar. More security to deal with more issues. Overwhelm the threats persay with vast outnumbering. Once again only for terrorists related threats or incursions. Race should really play zero percent of the terrorist defense we seek to accomplish. The terrorist look like our neighbors now. These extremists are man woman and regrettably sometimes child. Intelligence is the key. you dont have enough intel..?.. flood da streets with bloodhounds smelling for intel. (3rd time) Terrorist related activities only.If we were really serious about it we would wipe out the majority of all crime too. Double even triple the policing agencies of every city and state.Cant do crime when the police GUARANTEE your JailTime. All the money the additional officers pay bk in the economy is another plus.Keep in mind none of this is possible till the act of racial profiling is made illegal with a plan to stop it. how about a huge goverment taskforce to police the police from using race at all which would strenghten them, by forcing them to become more effecient at obtaining police intel. More security is better. Creating jobs is better. Fighting the taliban and whomever comes here to do harm to anyone other themself is necessary. The objective is a safer America right?? With jobs for all and fair opportunity for all right.??

    May 9, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. krishna

    Jesse, I came to the USA to work in 1993 from India. Today I am jobless in America. My job is outsourced to an Indian company in Bangalore. I have thought very hard about the issues that you have raised. It is not Indians that have taken jobs from Americans. It is capitalism. The fundamental tenet of capitalism is buy low and sell high. America is a capitalist country. The capitalists will go wherever they can to buy low. And they will go wherever they can to sell high. A programmer in India costs $ 20 an hour. They need to pay me $ 100 an hour. Who will get the job ? We cannot blame capitalism because the great American innovation is because of capitalism. We all are paying the price for it. Today America is a great and powerful nation because of capitalism. Immigrant labor fuels growth in the American economy and not the other way around.

    May 9, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bubba

    ... everyone should go home and take a nap now. Then STAY there.

    May 9, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. 8ec

    Mr. Muhammad Dar

    Why are you so obsessed with Indians and Americans and hating them? What ever you seem to be saying in your postings seem to reflect Muslims and Islam more than anything else: violence, hatred, history and current events clearly reflect this fact. Today, except for possibly Turkey, there does not seem to be peace in any Muslim nation, only violence and war. Also, there is no religious tolerance, in fact fighting between Muslim factions even when nations are 100 percent Islamic. Suppression of women is ingrained and encouraged, what sort of religion is this?

    May 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jesse

    Peace on earth.God Bless the USA! Indians are not only eating the bread and butter of the innocent American population but they have stolen American jobs and the livelihood of the Americans. They are resposible for ruining the American Economy! Shame on you shameless Indians! Look what you have done to our Economy. . .Why couldn't you mind your own business rather than go around the world, spreading misery!!
    God Bless the USA! ! ! !

    May 9, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  16. TerrorBuster

    Why Pakistanis in this forum can't answer the questions straight??? Learn to own responsibilities guys. Your citizens have been caught in series of terror attacks around the globe.... and you keep blaming others!! Look at the post # 110 he talks about something that's nearly impossible to achieve....implying they'll continue what they've doing..? Excuses, blames, excuses, blames...

    May 9, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Akber Ali

    I absolutely agree with the strategy of Mr. Tariq. On the other hand I am just unable to understand that why US and other Western countries are unable to understand that all this messy ideas of Islamization, Talibanization, Jihadizm, etc. are funded and supported by Pakistan Army. This notorious wing of Pakistan Army (ISI) is responsible for a lot of these things.

    If we could only fix Pakistan Army everything else would automatically be fixed.

    May 9, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  18. TARIQ

    Please loyal to humanity irrespective of your attachments with self created gegraphic boundries.Be honest with each other,If we want to bring the peace in the world then we have to amend our thinking and approch towards each other.The poors are great in numbers in the world.We should spend our resources on welfare rather on distruction wepons.By providing jobs in trouble area means more familyies dependents on those paying,Lets make opertunities so they can earn with honour.If we employe 100,000 youths for Rs.12000 per month that amounts to Rs.1200000000/ orUS 14.11 million dollors per month or 169.41 million for an year or 847 million dollars for Five years this productive cost is much less than war expences,and we keep away 100000 youths from elements attract them and put them in activities not desireable.

    May 9, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  19. TARIQ

    To resolve all the world issues we need to bring justice in all fields of life,Political,religious,economic with out disrimination due to any reason.We should distribute the resources in such a way that can increase the earning opertunities,and no one should opt for nagitive to earn his/her bread and butter.

    May 9, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  20. meeta

    All muslims who are eating bread and butter of America and achiving the dreams of great nation, also all muslim people who are in other non muslim nations and enjoying the wealth and life style, awake and condemn terrosist activities.
    Loyalty should to countries you adapted.

    All women, wake up, do something , amaze the world that you are equal human beings and get rid of complete covering of faces.

    May 9, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  21. Osman

    @Jay.

    How is that link relevant at all?

    May 9, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  22. krishna

    Maak – Kashmir belongs to India. We are not occupying. If muslims do not want to live there they can move to pakistan. we have better use for kashmir like raising goats for example. the incidents that you mention – gujarat and babri masjid. every right thinking indian regrets and is ashamed that they happened. they should never have happened. they are isolated incidents and should never be taken as a mainstream movement against muslims in india.

    May 9, 2010 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  23. Maak

    Krishna, none of this would be happening in India, if the Indians has controlled the destruction of the Babri Mosque, the horresndous killings of 3000 men, women and children by sadistic Hindu mobs in Gujraat and occupation and mass killings of Kashmiri moslems. You talk as though the muslims of India are having a great life. Are you stupid or what.??

    May 9, 2010 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  24. Jay

    @Jester, Some sensible logic from a Paki at last except the German bit. That comparison applies more to US or China. After a struggle we helped remove the taliban. I don't think we are going to let the taliban easily back in. Taliban is just an extension of isi apparatus. Now that US is planning to cut and run mid next year Pak probably will be hired to contain the taliban which seems to defeat the very idea.

    May 9, 2010 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  25. krishna

    pakistan will always be a dangerous place if islamic fundamentalism is not checked there. india has an equal number of muslims but they don't create trouble like the pakistanis. they are more educated and are capable of good judgment. we should try to educate the pakistanis. all violent material in the quran should be eliminated. references to infidels must be removed. the new peaceful and a more tolerant version of the quran should be circulated in the madrassas of pakistan. in a few decades pakistanis will hopefully get enlightened. that is the only way and perhaps a cheaper way. no amount of armed conflict will resolve this problem.

    May 9, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  26. safe world

    was there any Al Quaida in Iraq before Allied Attack?

    Were there any Taliban In Pakistan before Afghan Attack?

    Is India more safe than before?

    Is Pakistan more safe than before?

    Is World more safe than before?

    Think and answer---------–

    May 9, 2010 at 6:02 am | Report abuse |
  27. Jay

    @Jester, "Pakistan bashing", what else or they worth for honestly? You are not exactly planning to go there for your honeymoon are you?

    May 9, 2010 at 6:00 am | Report abuse |
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