Pakistani Taliban helped Faisal Shahzad, it's not on US list of terrorists?

Monday's confession from attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad has put the spotlight on the Pakistani Taliban's absence from the official US terrorist list.

Elizabeth Williams/AP
In this courtroom sketch, Faisal Shahzad pleads guilty Monday in Manhattan Federal Court to carrying out the failed May 1 car bombing in New York's Times Square. Mr. Shahzad confession raises questions about why the Pakistani Taliban has so far been left off the official US terror list.

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Now that Faisal Shahzad has pleaded guilty to ten weapons and terrorism charges in connection with his attempted Times Square bombing, a group of US senators has begun pressuring the State Department to add his bankrollers to the list of foreign terrorist organizations. A place on the list would hit the Pakistani Taliban with a range of financial and logistical sanctions.

Known more specifically as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (literally: Pakistani Taliban movement), the TTP is a loose-knit umbrella organization whose current de jure head is Hakimullah Mehsud of South Waziristan. The group encompasses various factions from Pakistan's Swat Valley and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The TTP is basically against the Pakistani government but it has recently allied itself with Punjabi groups (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jaish-e-Mohammad) who were created by Pakistan's inteligence agencies.

Mr. Shahzad confession Monday to a laundry list of charges (read the full list) in connection with his failed attempt May 1 to detonate a car bomb in the middle of New York’s bustling Times Square, raises questions about why the Pakistani Taliban has so far been left off the official State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Neither the Pakistani Taliban, nor the Afghan Taliban, with whom the US has been fighting a nine-year war, are on the US list of official terrorist groups. (Read the full list, at the US State Department.)

Shahzad, who was born in Pakistan but is a naturalized United States citizen, also confessed on Monday to receiving five days of explosives training from the group during a 40-day sojourn in Pakistan’s restive Waziristan region last year, reports the Associated Press. The group also provided him with $12,000 with which to carry out the Times Square attack, plus another $4,000 when he left their training camp, according to a federal indictment.

A press release from the US Department of Justice states that, according to the indictment:

In December 2009, Shahzad received explosives training in Waziristan, Pakistan, from explosive trainers affiliated with Tehrik-e-Taliban, a militant extremist group based in Pakistan. On Feb. 25, 2010, Shahzad received approximately $5,000 in cash in Massachusetts sent from a co-conspirator (CC-1) in Pakistan whom Shahzad understood worked for Tehrik-e-Taliban. Approximately six weeks later, on April 10, 2010, Shahzad received an additional $7,000 in cash in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., which was also sent at CC-1’s direction.

On Tuesday a group of four Democratic senators from New York and New Jersey announced they would introduce legislation that would require the State Department to immediately add the group to the list of 45 organizations, which includes Al Qaeda, Hamas, and the Real IRA, says Pakistan’s daily newspaper Dawn.

Inclusion would bring with it a host of sanctions, reports Dawn, including the freezing of all group assets, barring foreign nationals tied to the group from entering the US, and making it illegal to provide the group with any support.

“We cannot wait any longer to go after this group with everything we’ve got,” Senator Chuck Schumer (D) of New York said in a statement that was joined by Kirsten Gillibrand (D) of New York, Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey, and Robert Menendez (D) of New Jersey. “This organization poses an existential threat to the safety of not only our soldiers fighting abroad, but also Americans here at home. It’s time we dealt them with every tool at our disposal.”

The senators already sent a letter May 11 to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the administration to cite the TTP as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).

Designating the Pakistani Taliban a foreign terrorist organization has been on the State Department’s “to do list” for a while, reports CNN. Unnamed sources within the government agency told the broadcaster that there were “strict legal guidelines” to be followed before adding a group to the terror list, although the inclusion of the Pakistani Taliban is “inevitable.”

State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters on Tuesday that Senate legislation wasn’t necessary and that the group would be added to the list of foreign terror organizations soon, reports AP.

"This is not something that we're ignoring," he said.


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