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Times Square Terror: Drone Payback?

Noah Shachtman

An image of terror suspect Faisal Shahzad is seen on a screen during a press conference at the US Justice Department in Washington. Outside his locked family homes, shocked Pakistanis remember Shahzad as a modern father of two from a good family who showed no hatred of America or sympathy with radical Islam. (AFP/Jewel Samad)

Faisal Shahzad tried to bomb Times Square as payback for American
drone attacks in Pakistan.

That's what the New York Post is reporting, at least. The
tabloid, relying on anonymous "law-enforcement sources," says that
Shahzad was an "eyewitness" to the unmanned "onslaught
throughout the eight months he spent in Pakistan beginning last summer

In a video made prior to the attack, the Pakistani Taliban leader
Qari Hussain Mehsud said "the attack is a revenge" for "the
recent rain of drone attacks
," and for the slaying of extremist
leaders in Iraq and Pakistan.

There have been an estimated 121
American drone strikes in Pakistan since early 2008
. The death toll,
by some calculations, is over 1,000 people.  Counterinsurgency and
counterterror experts have warned that the drone
strikes risked creating more enemies
than they offed.


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I'm skeptical of neat, tit-for-tat rationales, however. I'm guessing
Shahzad was radicalized long before American drone war over Pakistan got
into full swing in 2008. The robot attacks might have helped convince
Shahzad to assemble his crappily-made,
Rube Goldberg bomb
. I'm sure there were other factors.

Shahzad remained attached to his native Pakistan; he bought a one-way
there after the failed bombing. But the Pakistani Army is
publicly doubting whether their local militants had anything to do with
the terror attempt.

"Anybody can claim anything, but whether the organization has that
kind of reach is questionable," Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the military's
chief spokesman, said. "I don't think they have the capacity to reach
the next level."

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