The Pakistani Taliban

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The investigation into the failed car bombing in Times Square has focussed attention on the Pakistani Taliban. Anchor Marco Werman speaks with Christine Fair of Georgetown University about the relationship between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban movements.

MARCO WERMAN: Investigators probing the would-be car bomber in Times Square now say he was directed by the Pakistani Taliban. Note, that's not the Afghan Taliban, but their Pakistani counterparts. While they share a hatred for the west, the Pakistani Taliban has, up to now, been known only for attacking targets inside their country, but that may be changing. Christine Fair was political officer with the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, and now teaches at Georgetown University. First off Christine, when you were in Kabul what were the main differences between the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Taliban in Pakistan.

CHRISTINE FAIR: Well first of all, their origins. The Afghan Taliban came out of the madras' in Pakistan, which were in some sense the grandchildren of the militant infrastructure that the United States built with the Pakistanis and the Saudis to repel the Soviets and the Afghan jihad. In the meantime, after the war on terrorism began and the United States began pushing the Pakistanis to actively facilitate the operations in Afghanistan, including going after the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda as well as the Afghan Taliban, beginning in about 2004 when the Pakistanis went into south Waziristan, mostly the focus on Al Qaeda, we saw the beginning of a tribal insurgency against the Pakistani state. So unlike the Afghan Taliban, which is really focused upon the Afghan state, the Pakistani Taliban, they're fellow travelers with the Afghan Taliban, they give the Afghan Taliban shelter as well as Al Qaeda in the tribal areas, but the Pakistani Taliban is really focused upon the Pakistani state. And increasingly against the United States because it is the U.S. drone strikes that are targeting the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistan Taliban, and Al Qaeda in these tribal areas.

WERMAN: Do you think the two Talibans are now coming closer together?

FAIR: Well yes and no. There is discord between the two because the Pakistani government has aided and abetted the Afghan Taliban. It's called the Afghan Taliban's - - name for the Pakistan city of - - . And, in fact, Mullah Omar had quite a number of differences with - - Massoud, the previous commander of the Pakistan Taliban because he said why are you targeting the ISI? The ISI helps us. Now that being said, there are also nodes of overlap. And because the Afghan Taliban have always, since they were driven out of Afghanistan in late 2001, they've always had refuge in the spaces that are controlled now by the Pakistan Taliban. You might imagine that there are a lot of personal affinities, even though the goals of the organization is quite different.

WERMAN: Christine, what do we know now that's new about the Pakistani Taliban after the arrest of Faisal Shahzad?

FAIR: I think there's a tendency to misunderstand the Faisal Shahzad phenomenon. In my reading of this, this is less about the Pakistan Taliban being able to project power here than it is about an individual who, for a variety of reasons, despite being a naturalized U.S. citizen, radicalized and sought out training to harm Americans at home. And so the Pak Taliban, I don't think that people thought that they would have this capacity. But what my interpretation is, rather than the Pak Taliban pushing out, in fact [SOUNDS LIKE] diasporans are going there and they're seeking training.

WERMAN: So how is this all going to affect Americans? Could this lead, for example, to more attacks by people of Pakistani origin, or is the Faisal Shahzad case just a flash in the pan?

FAIR: Well I don't think it is a flash in the pan. Again, we look at the U.K situation. They've had a number of so-called diasporans radicalize at home, go to Pakistan for training, and have come either to the U.K. or elsewhere for operational purposes. The U.S. has been relatively insouciant. These narratives, our Muslims don't hate us because of our electoral processes because we're an open democracy they can express their displeasure in other ways. But the bottom line is that increasingly Americans need to embrace the possibility that we're going to see more of our [SOUNDS LIKE] diasporans radicalizing here, going to Pakistan for training. And the task before us is how do you deal with this delicately without demonizing the entire Muslim population, the vast majority of which are our allies, even while we hone in on those elements of the [SOUNDS LIKE] Diaspora that seek to do us harm.

WERMAN: Christine Fair with the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University, thank you so much.

FAIR: Thank you very much for having me.