(Centennial Fellow) Here is a summary of key facts regarding the attack on Times Square in New York, with analysis provided at the end. The purpose is to provide the reader with an understanding of the situation based on a long-term analysis of the enemy, and an understanding of their operating procedures, doctrine, and strategic outlook.
On May 1, 2010, at approximately 6:34pm, a gray 1993 Nissan Pathfinder was discovered unattended in front of 45th and Broadway, New York City, with smoke emanating from it. Alerted by a T-shirt vender, a mounted NYPD officer observed people running away from the area of the vehicle. The Officer evacuated the area and called the bomb squad.
** Suspect was captured on NY surveillance video in the immediate area of the vehicle.
** Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) tracked to previous owner (Connecticut resident), led to the identification of Faisal Shahzad as the driver (other information utilized as well).
** Shahzad is a Pakistani-born male, 30 years of age, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen approximately one year ago.
** On May 2, 2010, Pakistani Taliban issued 3 video tapes declaring the Bombing in Times Square as an act of revenge for the killing of Baitullah Mehsud, the Emir of the Taliban, and others. The tapes were recorded prior to the bombing. In a 9+ minute video, Hakimullah Mehsud, the new Emir of the Taliban, speaks of impending attacks on the United States. The CIA has claimed Mehsud has been dead for five months via a US drone strike.
** Once identified, FBI Surveillance followed Shahzad to his home in Connecticut. Shahzad departed his residence via the rear door which was not covered by FBI surveillance. Suspect fled to JFK airport (stops in between unknown).
** Shahzad’s name appears on the watch list compiled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
** Shahzad reserved an airline ticket enroute to the airport and paid cash upon arrival. Shahzad boarded Emirates Airlines Flight 202 for Dubai (UAE).
** Alert Customs officials recognized the name on the manifest for Emirates Flight 202 as the same name as the individual whose name appears on the watch list. They made appropriate notifications and Shahzad was removed from the plane and taken into custody.
** Shahzad confessed to parking the car and being the one who built the bomb. He was recently in Pakistan for approximately 5 months where, according to him, he was given bomb-making training.
** When he returned from Pakistan Shahzad went to Herndon, VA, the Southeast University in Washington, D.C. and to Colorado – at a residence approximately seven (7) miles from NY Subway bomber (captured prior to attack) Najibullah Zazi.
** A website for alumni of Sharia College at Minhaj University in Lahore, Pakistan, listed a profile for “Faisal Shahzad” of Pakistani descent.
After the attack, numerous officials stated that Shahzad’s device was “crude” and “amateurish,” all of which may be true. However, all evidence reveals the device was made by a Taliban-trained Muslim Pakistani in order to have some desired effect. So far, the U.S. Intelligence Community, public officials, and the media at large have all been silent as to the purpose of this attack. I propose there are two likely reasons behind this attack. While the Taliban leadership states the NY attack was retribution for the death of Baitullah Mehsud, the former Emir of the Taliban, there is likely a more strategic reason.
First, it must be understood that the Taliban (like Al Qaeda and other Jihadi organizations) takes action outside of its area of influence in order to affect the situation on the ground IN its area of influence. Therefore, one must look at what is taking place on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Sources on the ground are reporting that representatives of the Karzai government are meeting with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – a powerful Afghan mujahideen leader and a “designated terrorist” by the U.S. government. This meeting is not overtly supported by the U.S. government. However, by taking offensive action in the U.S. via the Times Square bombing, the Taliban’s actions strengthen Hekmatyar’s negotiating position on the ground in Pakistan/Afghanistan. The United States has made it known to the world that it will cut-and-run in Afghanistan, and has demonstrated no will to take the fight to the enemy with the ferocity and level of violence required to defeat this enemy. The fact the U.S. wrote a constitution for Afghanistan dictating that Islamic Law, not democratic principles, guides Afghanistan notwithstanding, the U.S. government fails to realize the importance of Information Warfare in its overall Strategic Campaign. That said, the events this past weekend in NYC reflect a strategic push by the Taliban to affect something that isn’t even on the radar screen of the Attorney General, the Mayor of New York, and the FBI.
Another fact that has been lost in this incident is the actual address of the target. According to a report compiled by the IntelCenter in Alexandria, Virginia, and corroborated by the New York Police, the vehicle (VBIED) was parked “in New York City’s Times Square near the Nokia Theatre.” The Nokia Theatre is located at 1515 Broadway, NY, NY. This is also the address of Viacom. Viacom is the corporate parent to a number of major media enterprises, to include Comedy Central. Approximately one week ago, Comedy Central’s popular show “South Park” aired a show in which the Muslim Prophet Mohammed was dressed in a bear costume and spoke on the show. A group calling themselves “RevolutionMuslim” called the episode “insulting” and stated that the writers of the show, Trey Parker and Matt Stone “will probably end up like Theo Van Gogh,” a reference to the Dutch film-maker killed by a Muslim for insulting Islam.
It is interesting and disturbing that our nation’s finest intelligence agencies are not putting these pieces together as we consider motive. Unless, of course, motive is not important to our government. We have not even discussed the requirements of Islamic Law to kill those who “slander” the Prophet Mohammed or for Muslims to wage jihad (only defined in Islamic Law as warfare against non-muslims) until the world is claimed for Islam. That might be a bridge too far at this point.
Centennial Institute Fellow John Guandolo is a 1989 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who served as a Marine officer in infantry and reconnaissance units, including combat operations in Desert Storm. After 12 years as a Special Agent with the FBI, he now works advising government officials on the threat from the Islamic Movement.