Faisal Shahzad case intensifies scrutiny of links between Pakistan militant groups
Officials aren't saying which militants, if any, Faisal Shahzad may have met in Pakistan, but focus is intensifying on how interlinked Pakistan militants groups may be. Pakistan and US officials differ in their assessments.
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"It's not uncommon for one person to have been a member of four or five groups over time," says Mr. Zaidi. "These organizations are very flexible, mobile, fluid."Skip to next paragraph
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The cross-pollination makes it easier for veterans to vouch for newbies and direct them to multiple organizations. It also increases the ability of people with rare skills in things like bomb-making to make the rounds, spreading the training.
"Unless there's a crackdown on every militant group, the situation will not become pacified. All these groups, they tend to start cooperating, even if not on an ideological level. They tend to interact with other groups," says Zaidi.
Ideological outlook key
What's going on at the ideological level very much matters for Hamid Gul, a retired military general and former director of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. He divides the groups into three distinct and independent categories based on their geographic focus.First there are the Afghan Taliban, who are fighting a jihad against US occupation of Afghanistan. "They are not inimical to the interests of Pakistan," he says.
In a second category he places the militant groups formed to fight in Kashmir. He says that while some members of these groups have been found in the Waziristan tribal area, he sees little proof of a deep connection between the Kashmir groups and those in the third category: militants fighting against Pakistan.
"The groups in the tribal areas are absolutely different than what we have in other parts of Pakistan," says (ret.) Gen. Mahmood Shah, a former governor of Pakistan's tribal areas. "I think they maintain independence with each other."
The only group from outside the tribal area with significant links to the Taliban, he says, is Lashkar-i Jangvi, an anti-Shiite terror group.
However, he agrees that there are militants who have broken ranks with Kashmir-focused groups and migrated to the tribal areas to join the Taliban. Many of these have become known as the Punjabi Taliban and fall under the TTP umbrella.
He says that the US would probably like to put all these groups in one basket, pressuring Pakistan to move into North Waziristan, a haven for Afghan Taliban, retreating TTP leaders, and the Punjabi Taliban.
"Pakistan cannot open many fronts at one time. It is proceeding along a plan against [all these] elements, and I am sure they will continue doing that," says Mr. Shah.
Zaidi warns against complacency when it comes to militant groups who appear manageable or focused on next-door conflicts in Kashmir and Afghans.
"It's been documented that even so called 'pliant groups' – even LeT – they have had people moving in and out or staying as guests who had more internationalist linkages," says Zaidi. "At this point, it's too late to say that we have to separate better groups, tame ones, from uncontrollable ones."
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