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US had given Zardari a dossier on Shahzad

May 26, 2010 17:00 IST

Top US security officials used an urgent meeting with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to present a dossier on Pakistani-American terror suspect Faisal Shahzad, including his links with the Pakistani Taliban, according to a media report on Wednesday.

The dossier contained "a detailed chart" describing Shahzad's contacts with the Pakistani Taliban before his attempt to detonate an explosives-laden vehicle in New York City's Times Square, US officials were quoted as saying in the Los Angeles Times. The evidence was part of an "emphatic American warning" that there would be "inevitable pressure" on the US to take action if there was an attack traceable to Pakistan that resulted in US casualties, officials familiar with the talks said.

The warning was delivered to Zardari by US National Security Advisor James Jones and Central Intelligence Agency chief Leon E Panetta during a meeting in Islamabad last week. Panetta said Pakistan needs to "intensify" its crackdown on the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and other militant groups. The evidence, which included photographs of militants suspected of assisting Shahzad, was shown to Zardari, army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and other Pakistani officials, US officials said.

Jones and Panetta attempted to convince the Pakistanis that the US had "hard evidence that Shahzad had received support from the Pakistani Taliban," the officials said. The chart, assembled by US intelligence agencies, "showed who all he had contacts with", one official said. The chart drew "clear links between Faisal Shahzad and the TTP leaders in Pakistan".

Jones and Panetta did not spell out action the US might take, an official said. The delegation did not rule out military action but it didn't talk about it specifically, he said. Officials in Islamabad had initially denied that the Pakistani Taliban was involved in the May 1 bombing attempt by Shahzad, the son of a retired Pakistan Air Force officer.

Following Jones and Panetta's meeting with Zardari and other leaders, Pakistani officials began to acknowledge that the Taliban provided support to Shahzad, the report said. The Taliban initially claimed responsibility for the attempted attack but later backed away from the claim and denied knowing Shahzad.

The newspaper reported that US officials have "become convinced" that the Pakistani Taliban, after primarily focusing on attacks against the Pakistan government, is "increasingly seeking ways to strike US targets." The Taliban has formed closer links with Al Qaeda and has seemed to "adopt the terrorist network's goal of striking the United States on its own territory", the report said.

"We have been lucky in the past, but our luck will run out and in the future, we are likely to face successful attacks," said an unnamed senior US intelligence official. Whether the US would respond militarily or with lesser steps "would depend on the circumstances of an attack and the strength of the evidence implicating militants in Pakistan," several officials said.

The White House originally considered warning Pakistan about the consequences of another attack in a confidential letter from President Barack Obama to Zardari but it decided to dispatch Jones and Panetta to deliver the message in person. In addition to the visit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned publicly in the days after the Times Square attempt that Pakistan faced "very severe consequences" in the event of another plot originating in Pakistan.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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