The Agence France Presse (AFP) has quoted Mrs.Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, as warning Pakistan in a recorded TV interview for the CBS Channel to be telecast on May 9,2010, that it would face " very severe consequences" if a terror plot like the failed Times Square bombing of May 1 was traced to that country. She said:"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." However, she added: "We've gotten more cooperation and it's been a real sea change in the commitment we've seen from the Pakistan Government.We want more. We expect more."
Her warning has received greater attention in India than in Pakistan. The lack of an impact in Pakistan could be attributed to two reasons. Firstly, a careful reading of her remarks shows that her so-called warning is not with reference to the failed attempt by Faisal Shahzad, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, on May 1,2010, to cause an incendiary car bomb explosion in the Times Square of New York, but with reference to any future attack that might be successful. What she meant was that if there was a successful attack in future and the investigation traced it back to Pakistan, it would face severe consequences. Secondly, comments emanating from White House spokesmen, Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, and Gen.David Petraeus, the head of the US Central Command, after the May 1 attempt show continued appreciation of the operations mounted by the Pakistan Army against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the Swat Valley of the Khyber-Pakhtunkwa province and in South Waziristan and seek to project the Pakistani co-operation against terrorism in positive colours. Mrs.Clinton also projected it in positive colours, but added a warning as to what could happen in future. The White House and the Pentagon have refrained from uttering any such warning.
This has been interpreted by the Pakistani authorities as indicating that Islamabad continues to enjoy the support of the White House and the Pentagon despite the unsuccussful attempt by Faisal. The Pakistani reaction to the identification of Faisal as the perpetrator of the attempt has been typical. Firstly,to assure all co-operation to the US in the investigation of the case. Secondly, to round up about about 20 persons in Karachi, Peshawar and other places, including four alleged members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM). Thirdly, to point out that Faisal is an American and not a Pakistani citizen and hence causes for his radicalisation are to be found in the US and not in Pakistan. And fourthly, to start releasing those arrested one after the other on grounds of lack of evidence. The ultimate outcome of the investigation at the Pakistan end is zero.
Cases detected in the US during the last two years or so show a trend which should be of concern to the US. Individual Muslims resident in the US, most of them of Pakistani origin, have been going to Pakistan in small groups to assist the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban in their operations in the Af-Pak territory. Their original intention when they left the US for Pakistan was not to indulge in acts of terrorism in the US Homeland. They wanted to attack US nationals and interests in the Af-Pak region. Al Qaeda, the myriad Talibans in Pakistan and Punjabi terrorist organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the JEM and the 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri with whom they came into contact in Pakistani territory, played them back into the US.
What, in effect, these organisations told the American Muslims was: "We can handle the jihad in the Af-Pak region. You will better serve the cause of Islam by going back to the US and starting a jihad in the US Homeland. We will give you the necessary training for this." This has come out very clearly in the testimonies in the US case against Najibullah Zazi, a US resident of Afghan origin, and two others, who had been motivated by Al Qaeda and the JEM to mount an attack in the New York subway system similar to the Madrid bombing of March 2004 and the London bombing of July, 2005.
Al Qaeda, the Talibans and their associates have been trying to turn these US Muslims going to Pakistan in the hope of fighting in the Af-Pak region into surrogarte jihadis who will fight for them in the US Homeland. US officials and non-Governmental analysts have been playing down the threats of the TTP to indulge in reprisal attacks in the US Homeland on the ground that the TTP has no known presence in the US and does not have such a long reach. The TTP and others are not trying to create a presence for themselves in US territory, but are trying to manipulate American Muslims going to Pakistan to wage a jihad to go back to the US and wage a hihad in the US Homeland instead,
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Police in different US cities have till now succeeded in thwarting the attempts of these surrogate jihadis. Luck has also favoured them. But so long as more and more surrogate jihadis keep coming back to the US after having been motivated and trained in the training camps in Pakistani territory, there will always be a danger of one or more planned attacks being successful.
This danger will continue to confront the US so long as the jihadi infrastructure in Pakistani territory continues. The US has to act pre-emptively against the jihadi infrastructure instead of acting only if there is a successful terrorist strike in the US Homeland launched from Pakistan. All US warnings and admonitions have no effect on the Pakistani authorities because of their conviction that the importance of Pakistan for US policies in Afghanistan would protect Pakistan from any reprisals by the US and that anyhow, whatever the State Department might think and say, the Pentagon would oppose any action against Pakistan.
This conviction in the minds of the Pakistani leaders has to be removed and the Pakistani Army made to act against all jihadi infrastrcture whether directed against India, the US or anyone else and wherever it is located-- whether in North Waziristan, the Khyber-Pakhtunkwa province, Punjab, Sindh or Balochistan. Unless this is done now, more and more surrogate jihadis will keep going back to the US to start a jihad in the US Homeland. There is a need for a clear-cut enunciation of the US policy articulated by President Barack Obama himself.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.