Washington should be concerned about the changing profile of the terrorist in the U.S.
As you read this, a hozing down operation is underway somewhere in Pakistan to eliminate any possibility of Faisal Shahzad — the Times Square Talib – being traced back to the Military Jihadi Complex (MJC) in the fatherland. Mr. Shahzad was arrested by authorities at JFK while attempting to flee the U.S. after the events of May 3rd.
Some folks have chosen to see the lighter side of the matter — Flashpoint Partners’s Evan Kohlmann mocked the amateurishness of the “so-called bomb,” further adding that clocks setting off fireworks to ignite gas did not “exist outside of Tom and Jerry cartoons.” I trust the entertainment isn’t spoiled by this piece by Steve Coll:
At best, the jihadi groups might conclude that a particular U.S.-originated individual’s case is uncertain. They might then encourage the person to go home and carry out an attack—without giving him any training or access to higher-up specialists that might compromise their local operations. They would see such a U.S.-based volunteer as a “freebie,” the former officer said—if he returns home to attack, great, but if he merely goes off to report back to his C.I.A. case officer, no harm done. [Think Tank]
Another, perhaps related aspect to this, of course, is the idea that “unaffiliated” Pakistani- or Arab-American citizens could carry out attacks in the U.S., either acting individually or in tandem. This offers significant challenges to intelligence and counter-terrorism officials — monitoring communication channels may not be very useful in preventing such an attack. If Mr. Coll is accurate about the handful of Pakistani-Americans having traveled to Pakistan for training, this should be of significant concern to authorities. The potentiality for terror of the approximately 200,000 Pakistani-Americans (who have thus far largely avoided confrontations with the state) should worry Washington.
If terror inspired from Pakistan hits the homeland, how will the U.S. respond?