Taking on terrorists
United States intelligence officials were undeniably successful last week — with the aid of some key allies — in thwarting several attempted terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
Americans in every corner of the country — not just those in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other cities in the terrorists’ crosshairs — are no doubt thankful for the success of that intelligent work.
But the attempted mayhem and the success in halting these attacks raise important questions about how we should continue this war against al-Qaida. It is a war al-Qaida leaders are clearly still pursuing with gusto, even if some of our political leaders in this country want to downplay it.
Simply put, the question is this: Are we making the most effective use of our financial and human resources?
Is spending billions of dollars and keeping tens of thousands of our service men and women in harm’s way in Afghanistan, trying to root out the Taliban and stabilize that country an effective means of protecting this country?
Or would we better use those resources by beefing up our human intelligence efforts, working harder to infiltrate al-Qaida cells and related organizations and finding ways to disrupt terrorist activities before they reach the point they did last week?
Last Wednesday, Farooqu Ahmed, a Pakistani native who had become a U.S. citizen, was arrested near Washington, D.C., on charges he conspired with others in a plan to plant explosives in the transportation systems of Virginia and the nation’s capital. He and his conconspirators were not only under surveillance, but their plans were coordinated with undercover federal agents. That will increase uncertainty for other would-be terrorists.
Attacks by mail bombs sent last week from Yemen on cargo jets were more narrowly averted. Acting on tips from intelligence officials in Saudi Arabia, U.S. authorities stopped explosive devices bound for a synagogues in Chicago and apparently set to blow up in flight. But officials admitted they were lucky to find them. One almost slipped through British security and another had been on two passenger planes before it was seized in Dubai.
So it’s welcome news that the Obama administration, along with its top military and security leaders, is re-assessing how to deal with Yemen. They are considering sending more intelligence teams into Yemen, with the ability to track down and attack suspected terrorist facilities, even without the consent of the Yemeni government.
Since Yemen has failed miserably in shutting down terrorist cells there, such action may be an unfortunate necessity.
There’s no quesition that our military action in Afghanistan immediately following 9/11 disrupted the Taliban and Al-Qaida operains there and forced them to flee what had been a safe haven for them.
But nine years later, it’s also clear that the Taliban is far from routed in Afghanistan. In fact, they are reportedly negotiating with that country’s leaders. And it’s hard to discern that our military activities there are having any impact on either the Taliban or al-Qaida.
More and better intelligence efforts, coupled with unmanned drone bombings or pinpoint attacks by small groups of elite forces on identified terrorist facilities, whereever they may be, would seem to be a much better use of our financial resources and place far fewer of our young men and women in danger.