Why Waziristan?

Waziristan seems to be the current hub for training would-be terrorists. The Times Square suspect reportedly said he trained there, as did Najibullah Zazi. Why Waziristan?

Supposedly, Pakistan was having success rooting the Taliban out of Waziristan and a few weeks ago, suggested they'd be done in a few months.

Is Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mahsud a big factor? Reportedly, he survived a recent drone attack. Are U.S. drone attacks the problem? Juan Cole has more. [More..]

A big problem with the Obama administration’s approach to the Pakistani Taliban is that so far they have proffered only sticks and no carrots have been implemented. Last summer Washington prevailed on the Pakistani military to launch a campaign against the TTP in South Waziristan. It was carried out with much brutality and involved targeting members of the Mahsud tribe in general. South Waziristan is now under virtual military rule, many of its markets burned down, and its inhabitants subjected to constant checkpoint searches, as former ambassador Ayaz Wazir just described the situation. The displaced members of the Mahsud tribe are being threatened with death by the Taliban if they yield to Pakistani imploring to return to their homes, now under Islamabad’s military rule.

That is, in US military terms counter-insurgency would involve taking territory, clearing it of insurgents, holding it in the long term so as to reassure local populations they are safe, and then building an infrastructure of government services and a thriving economy. The Pakistani military has just taken and cleared. It isn’t providing enough security to allow the Mahsud to return to their homes. Although the US is dedicating monies for the “build” portion, it is not reaching South Waziristan at the moment, and take, clear– without the “hold” and “build” elements– is just brutal military.

More theories here.

Apparently, it's not that easy to fully detonate a bomb.

However, it also shows how difficult it can be to actually accomplish a full explosion. Producing a complete detonation has been the most important hurdle for a number of failed terrorist bombers, including Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, shoe bomber Richard Reid, the bombers of the June 30, 2007, Glasgow Airport attacks, and the bombers of the July 21, 2005, attacks against the London public transit system. While all of these attackers in some way initiated their bombs, none of them caused the explosions -- or the accompanying devastation and loss of life -- that they intended.

Accomplishing catastrophic effects is difficult because the detonation of a large explosion begins with a very small ignition and progressively (though rapidly) grows into something much bigger. It happens in an instant, but it happens by design and in sequence. Done properly, each step in the chain reaction occurs because of a deliberate plan to build upon the energy released by the preceding step, culminating in the explosion of the main charge. Trying to explode a propane cylinder with a firecracker, as the Times Square attacker did, is a bit like trying to topple a refrigerator with a domino.

As for a connection to al Qaeda, as I mentioned the other day, this was significantly different in that there was no suicide bomber. The Times Square guy fled the scene to escape injury.

But the Times Square incident is different in one critical respect from the four examples of failed jihadi bombings above: Whereas the other attacks were planned as suicides, the assailant seems to have intended to survive his bombing, as demonstrated by the empty Nissan Pathfinder left at the scene. The aspiration to martyrdom associated with al Qaeda and similar movements does not appear to have motivated the bomber in this instance. The reasons for this key difference are as yet unclear.

Still sounds like a loner plan to me.

Taken altogether, the dubious claims of international responsibility, the defective conceptualization of the attack, the nefarious intent, the choice of target, and the apparent preference for survival indicate inexperienced, enthusiastic, unsure, and isolated actor(s), trying more than anything else to make a political statement to American and global audiences.

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    According to BBC tonight, suspect had (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Tue May 04, 2010 at 09:23:53 PM EST
    been in U.S. for 10 yrs.  Lived in upscale Connecticut community.  House in foreclosure.  Any of this matter?  Who knows.

    The only thing that matters .. (none / 0) (#5)
    by nyrias on Wed May 05, 2010 at 01:01:12 PM EST
    is whether he did it or not.

    If he is the right guy, and a jury found him guilty, given all the due process .. then we should crucify him, figuratively speaking, of course.


    Loner? Dummy? Crazy? Still dangerous! (none / 0) (#2)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Wed May 05, 2010 at 04:29:50 AM EST
    People in the Square, people in NY, people in the USA need to offer up prayers, and burn candles that this guy was incompetent.

    I just wish that we weren't getting all these articles explaining how he went wrong.  
    What fertilizers he could have used that would have been better.  
    How he could have achieved a really monumental explosion using only the specific items he had in that car.  (O.k., I really haven't see that yet, but I expect I will in time.)

    Hmmm (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Wed May 05, 2010 at 09:38:12 AM EST
    I guess people read what is interesting to them. I have not read or heard any of the things you are talking about.

    Considering that all of this information is readily available for those interested, you may want to adjust your interests.

    If you are unable to stop the flow of this dangerous information to your brain, because of a passivity problem (you can't help yourself), and you are worried that at some point the accumulation of information will lead you to do something you will deeply regret, I suggest getting rid of your teevee, canceling all your media subscriptions, and get rid of your computer.

    If the problem persists, and you find yourself straying to bars, or hair salons that have teevee on 24/7, or you cannot resist visiting internet cafes, and hanging around in magazine stores, I would suggest that you voluntarily commit yourself to an institution that can keep you safe from yourself.


    why a duck? (none / 0) (#3)
    by cpinva on Wed May 05, 2010 at 07:20:07 AM EST
    dealing with insurgents, guerillas, freedom fighters, whatever you wish to call them, is a big game o' whack-a-fighter: they have no fixed physical location, and are free to move about the country.

    the only real way to dispose of them is a pincer movement, squeezing them from three sides, and funneling them in a directed manner, so they can either be killed or captured, as they attempt to flee. see: spanish civil war

    it also helps if you assume every adult in the area is an insurgent, and just do all of them in.

    insurgents succeed by either: a. co-opting the local populace to their cause willingly (see: vietnam). or, b. scaring the populace into tacit support. the army can't be everywhere, all the time.

    the government must show it's either: a. far more scary than the insurgents (apparently the pakistani approach)., or b. it offers more than the insurgents do, in a positive way, to get the local's support.

    clearly, option b is far more difficult and time onsuming than option a. the insurgents work on the theory of attrition, they'll just wait the government out. and move pretty freely about the country. as long as they have financial support and new recruits, they have the upper hand.

    How about (none / 0) (#6)
    by DancingOpossum on Wed May 05, 2010 at 01:20:30 PM EST
    ...the option of getting the frak out of their country? How come that option never comes up?