“This may suggest we are moving from the ‘A’ team in recruits to the ‘B’ team or even the ‘C’ team,” says William Martel, an associate professor of international security studies at the Tufts University Fletcher School of International Affairs.
There is still much to be learned about the Times Square incident, in which Shahzad’s vehicle bomb smoked and burned, but did not explode.
According to law enforcement officials, the bomb was made of fireworks, gasoline, propane tanks, and fertilizer. While these substances are flammable and dangerous in their own right, they are not typical bomb components, with the exception of fertilizer. For ammonium nitrate fertilizer to become a powerful explosive, it must be mixed with fuel oil – a step Shahzad reportedly had not taken.
Shahzad himself was far from an uneducated foot soldier. He was raised in Pakistan in affluent circumstances, and earned a college degree in the US after arriving in 1999 on a student visa. He has traveled back to Pakistan numerous times since moving to America – most recently in July, 2009.
US officials say Shahzad is providing them with information – which may be the basis for their confident assertions linking him to the Pakistani Taliban.