Appearing on “60 Minutes,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked if the would-be Times Square bomber had ties to terrorists operating out of Pakistan.
“There are connections,” Clinton said.
She was then asked what message she would deliver to Pakistanis about the attack.
“It’s very clear,” she said. “This is a threat that we share. We have a common enemy. There is no time to waste in going after that common enemy as hard and fast as we can. And we cannot tolerate having people encouraged, directed, trained and sent from Pakistan to attack us.”
Then, Clinton made this remarkable allegation: “I’m not saying that they’re at the highest levels, but I believe that somewhere in this government are people who know where Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida is, where Mullah [Mohammed] Omar and the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is, and we expect more cooperation to help us bring to justice, capture or kill those who attacked us on 9/11.”
This is not the first time Clinton has said something like this. She won’t back down from her controversial claim. And for that, she deserves credit.
We do not know what specific intelligence Clinton is relying upon, but it’s more likely than not that “somewhere” in the Pakistani government there are officials who know where the senior terror leaders are. The most likely home for these officials is ISI, Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
Too often, senior American officials in Washington, D.C., and abroad fail to state the obvious when it comes to our Pakistani ally. The nation of Pakistan is deeply divided, and these divisions are manifested in the Pakistani government. When Clinton excluded officials at the “highest levels” from her assessment, likely she was referring to Pakistan’s civilian government, including President Asif Ali Zardari.
The same cannot be said for some members of Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment. That establishment’s duplicity has been highlighted time and again.
On one hand, the ISI has assisted the U.S. in efforts to track down top al-Qaida operatives. On the other hand, the ISI has continued to sponsor the Taliban and other jihadist organizations on Pakistani soil, both as proxies for fighting Pakistan’s regional foes, but also because the ISI contains a significant number of true believers.
Clinton did not totally dismiss Pakistani cooperation against terrorism. She said she had to “stand up” for the efforts the Pakistani government was taking to hunt down “terrorists within their own country.” But when she was asked whether she was “comfortable” with the level of cooperation the U.S. is receiving, she said, “We’ve gotten more cooperation and it’s been a real sea change in the commitment we’ve seen from the Pakistani government. We want more. We expect more. We’ve made it very clear that if, heaven forbid, an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences.”
It’s dubious that there has been a “sea change” in the Pakistani government’s commitment to the fight, as Clinton claimed. And America does not have to wait for a “successful” attack to pressure the Pakistani government — or at least those parts of the government on America’s side — to do more. America and Pakistan have to stop terrorists such as Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad before they have their finger on the proverbial trigger. A more lethal terrorist may be in the terror network’s pipelines.
Still, Clinton deserves credit for highlighting a key dimension of this threat that’s often downplayed or ignored.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.