Links between the Pakistani Taliban and Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad raise the possibility that Islamic terrorists may be finding new ways to target the U.S. homeland. Compared to Al Qaeda's attack on 9/11, this was an unsophisticated operation -- although U.S. law enforcement still did not find the bomb until it went off (misfiring, luckily) and did not capture Shahzad until he had boarded a plane for Dubai. And unlike Al Qaeda, homegrown Pakistani groups historically have gone after targets in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, not in the U.S. So what accounts for this apparent change in tack?
"This is retaliation" by the Pakistan Taliban for an intense wave of CIA drone attacks against the group's fighters, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the U.S. media. "They're going to fight back." But other sources report that Shahzad was inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemen-based cleric also linked to accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan.
So was the Times Square attack a response to specific U.S. actions against a specific target? Or is it part of a broader form of blowback -- retaliation by radicalized Muslims worldwide for the "war on terror" since 9/11? Are current U.S. counter-terrorism policies sufficient to stop relatively crude attacks like this one? And is the lesson of this plot, despite its failure, that almost any terrorist group -- or individual -- can gather the capability to hit America, which will inspire more and more dangerous strikes in the future?