WASHINGTON—Two top Obama administration officials have told Pakistan that it has only weeks to show real progress in a crackdown against the Pakistani Taliban, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.
The U.S. has put Pakistan "on a clock" to launch a new intelligence and counterterrorist offensive against the group, which the White House alleges was behind the Times Square bombing attempt, according to the official.
White House national security adviser James Jones and CIA Director Leon Panetta delivered that message to Islamabad last week, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
As first reported by the Los Angeles Times, the high-ranking U.S. delegation presented the Pakistanis with evidence they believe proves that Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad was trained and funded by the Tehrik-e-Taliban, or TTP, as the Pakistani Taliban are known. Shahzad is accused of attempting to ignite what turned out to be a poorly constructed car bomb in Times Square.
The evidence also showed that two TTP members escorted Shahzad to a training base in the lawless tribal area of Waziristan, where he received some instruction in how to build explosives, the U.S. official said.
Pakistani authorities have already detained two suspects thought to be those TTP escorts, the official said. The U.S. now expects to see Pakistan carry out further independent counterterrorist operations and quietly increase other unspecified cooperation with the Americans, the official said.
The visiting delegation reminded Pakistani leaders that President Barack Obama had sent them a letter in November, asking for a tougher crackdown against al-Qaida and its affiliates like the TTP, the official said.
So far, many U.S. officials have rated Pakistan's progress on that front as mixed because Pakistan has maintained a detente with some of the al-Qaida affiliates that operate in its frontier provinces, like the Haqqani network.
The official said those in the delegation to Pakistan were hopeful the Shahzad case may spell the difference because the U.S. is asking Pakistan to crack down on a group that is a sworn enemy of Islamabad.
In Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari's spokesman Farhatullah Babar confirmed that the issue of Shahzad had come up during the meeting between U.S. officials and Zardari, but he refused to share any details. The meeting was also attended by Pakistan's prime minister and army chief.
Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said he had no information, and the country's main spy agency said it would not comment on reports that U.S. authorities had shared evidence about Shahzad's links with the Taliban.
The TTP have launched a series of bloody bombings against Pakistani government targets and civilians over the past year.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.