Bomb Attempt Puts U.S.-Pakistan Ties In Spotlight

From the time it became clear there was a Pakistan connection to Saturday's attempted bombing in Times Square, there seemed to be a concerted effort by U.S. officials to keep the rhetoric and the finger-pointing to a minimum.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said U.S. law-enforcement personnel are dealing with their Pakistani counterparts, as are the intelligence services.

"We're trying to understand and trace now what did this individual do when he was on the ground in Pakistan, who did he meet, and what are the implications of those actions," Crowley said.

He said Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, will continue to meet every day with senior Pakistani officials while the investigation continues.

Longstanding Pressure

Although Crowley painted a picture of cooperation and coordination between the two countries, in reality the U.S. has been pushing Pakistan — often hard — for several years to do more to prevent this kind of incident.

But Shuja Nawaz, the director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, said there's no need for a public dressing down by Washington.

"I think that there's obviously already a fairly heightened dialogue between the U.S. and Pakistan," Nawaz said. "I don't see the need go public with any berating of Pakistani authorities for not doing enough."

Nawaz said there is an understanding on both sides that much needs to be done — including on the military front. Washington has prodded Islamabad to root out terrorist camps and networks on its soil. The Pakistani military has launched offensives in militant strongholds along the border with Afghanistan.

But two months ago, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was turned down, point blank, when he requested that Pakistan's military conduct more operations in North Waziristan, one of the most important safe havens for the Taliban, al-Qaida and other militant groups. There are indications that the suspect in the botched Times Square bombing, Faisal Shahzad, might have received training there.

Pakistan's Domestic Concerns

Brian Fishman, a terrorism expert at the New America Foundation, said the New York City incident may give the U.S. more leverage in its arguments.

"I think the U.S. right now is pushing very hard for the Pakistanis to go into North Waziristan militarily," Fishman said.

He said the attempted attack is going to give U.S. diplomats and military officials who are making that argument even more substance.

But Tom Johnson, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, said the Pakistani government and military have national security interests that differ from those of the U.S., and which rule out widespread incursions into North Waziristan for now.

"I think the Pakistanis have been pretty hard-core on what they'll allow us to do and what they won't allow us to do in these areas, and even their willingness to follow our advice in programs and operations that we view as very critical," Johnson said.

The Pakistani government has said it won't allow U.S. combat troops to operate in the area. The U.S. has intensified an aerial offensive — using unmanned drones — in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions, including North Waziristan. That campaign could be stepped up further in the wake of Saturday's failed bombing attempt.

Nawaz, of the Atlantic Council, said an increase in drone attacks "may be useful temporarily, but you're not going to be able to stop this kind of activity with increased drone attacks."

He said any physical entry of U.S. forces into the tribal area would create a whole new problem.

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