PESHAWAR, Pakistan—The path to terrorist training in Pakistan is well worn—developed and maintained by established militant groups that have operated for decades. They are open to those—Americans included—with enough determination and savvy to navigate both the extremist networks and the dangerous borderlands.
Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American charged in the failed Times Square bombing, is among those to make the journey, U.S. prosecutors allege. Five young American Muslims tried to link up with extremists with less success, officials say: They now face trial in Pakistan.
Retired Brig. Mahmood Shah, the military’s former pointman in the tribal regions, said the numbers of would-be jihadis are dropping because Pakistani military operations and two years of U.S. drone airstrikes have made Somalia and Yemen more attractive destinations.
But analysts and Pakistani officials say that for those would-be jihadists, including foreigners, willing to take the risk, it is surprisingly easy for them to reach training facilities in the border area.
Would-be jihadis, many of whom are recruited by al-Qaida operatives abroad, enter Pakistan, either through the northwest city of Peshawar or the southern port city of Karachi. From there they make their way through safe houses to the border area, according to Pakistani intelligence and security officials.
Training takes place in makeshift mobile camps that move about to avoid detection by U.S. drones that have killed up to 300 people this year, according to the New America Foundation, which keeps a database of the attacks. Human rights groups believe many of the dead have been civilians, fueling anti-Americanism among Pakistan’s 175 million people and possibly encouraging young Muslims to join the jihad.