Intel Analyst: Boston Marathon Bombing 'Afghan-Style' Operation

'We should always have been worried' about IEDs, says Afghanistan veteran.

This Monday April 15, 2013 photo provided by Ben Thorndike shows the scene following an explosion at the 2013 Boston Marathon in Boston.
By + More

Police planned to release more information Thursday afternoon about two possible suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombing in an attempt to yield public information that could lead to an arrest.

[PHOTOS: Deadly Explosions Hit Boston Marathon]

Footage from a surveillance camera has led investigators to believe two separate suspects planted a black bag at each of the explosion sites near the marathon finish line. But uncovering their identity is only half of equation.  

Determining the motivation of the bombers is a critical part of developing some sort of conclusion to what could be the first foreign attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001. And one retired senior Pentagon intelligence official points to a potential overseas connection.  

"This looks like an Afghan-style operation, and most Afghan training comes from ISI," the former intel official said via email, referencing Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency.  

"The way it was placed and went off is indicative of the way ISI plants bombs," says the former official, who requested anonymity.  

[READ: Obama Declares Marathon Bombing An Act of Terror]

The attack in Boston was "very sophisticated," the official adds, despite the rudimentary materials used for the pressure cooker bomb.  

The Pakistani Taliban has said it believes in attacking the U.S. and its allies but denied involvement in the Boston bombing, a spokesman tells  AFP.  

A Marine Corps commander fresh back from the front lines in Afghanistan says the threat of an IED attack should have always been a concern on U.S. soil.  

"It shouldn't be a surprise," said Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, commander of the I Marine Expeditionary Force. "It's a bomb, and you can figure out how to make that if you just look on the internet." 

"I don't draw the conclusion that now we need to start worrying about this," he said at a breakfast meeting with defense reporters in Washington on Thursday. "I think we always should have been, and it's going to be a growing concern still."  

[READ: FBI Says No Arrests Made in Boston Marathon Case]

Some of the best money the U.S. military has spent in training its soldiers is through the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, Gurganus says, "but we haven't solved the problem."  

IMEF was deployed to Helmand and Nimroz provinces in Southern Afghanistan as the primary force for Regional Command-Southwest.  

While Pakistan and the U.S. maintain a very close economic and strategic relationship - with the U.S offering tens of millions of dollars each year in aid - the U.S. remains wary of its intelligence service, and Pakistan has lambasted the U.S. for drone strikes on its own soil.  

The American government kept Pakistan and ISI in the dark about the 2011 raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden for fear the information would leak.  

"There is a lot of factionalization within the ISI and people who have extremely bad feelings about the U.S.," says the retired Pentagon official who spoke with U.S. News. "It could be reprisals; payback for coming into our neighborhood."  

[BROWSE: Editorial Cartoons on the Boston Marathon Bombing]

Any evidence that this could be true would create a sticky situation for the U.S., he says, unlike with Iran, for example, where the Iranian Republican Guard has already been classified as a terrorist group, making it straight-forward to launch a counter strike.  

One expert in the weaponry used in America's modern wars in Iraq and Afghanistan says the attention given to IEDs from all sides of the fight could muddy the issue.  

"Inspire magazine is well publicized by the press," says Bill Roggio, a reporter for The Long War Journal, of the al-Qaida publication that instructs readers on how to perform homegrown terrorism. "This is what [al-Qaida] advises to do: Build a bomb like this." 

Pressure cooker bombs have long been used in attacks linked to jihadist groups, but also among U.S. bombers - Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo assigned to Fort Hood was arrested in 2011 for buying the ingredients to build such a bomb in Killeen, Texas.