On Point: Europe's Terror Alerts: Mumbai Meets Madrid


by Austin Bay
October 5, 2010

"There is a real terrorist menace in France andEurope," French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux told European media thisweek.

Hortefeux had just announced the arrest of a group ofIslamist militants operating in southern France. The arrests followed numerousreports that intelligence agencies in several nations had detected a plot,likely planned by al-Qaida operatives, to launch "Mumbai-style"terrorist commando attacks in major European cities. The reports mentionedParis and Berlin as specific targets.

The November 2008 Mumbai, India, assault was amassacre-by-gunfire attack left 166 people dead and over 300 wounded. PakistaniIslamist terrorists arrived by boat. They shot up hotels, going room-to-roomlooking for American and British citizens. They hit a railroad station, aJewish community center and even a hospital. The terror team may have receivedorders via cell phone from senior commanders who were watching live TVcoverage. Terrorists always seek media magnification, but Mumbai may be anexample of terrorists using live media reports as a tactical intelligence tool.

The Mumbai attack had a huge strategic goal: to ignite amajor war between India and Pakistan. Pakistan's fall 2008 army offensiveagainst the Pakistani Taliban threatened terrorist sanctuaries. Beginning inmid-2008, Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strikes on al-Qaida andTaliban sanctuaries in Pakistan had been increasingly effective.

Mumbai was a political and media gamble. The terrorists gota media pay-off but failed to ignite an Indo-Pakistani war that would have ledto a Pakistani Army withdrawal from the pro-Taliban tribal areas.

Today, Pakistan remains in turmoil, but its army continuesto press the Taliban. Moreover, Predator attacks on Taliban and al-Qaidasanctuaries have increased dramatically. The longwarjournal.org has done asplendid job of graphically documenting the increases and estimating Talibanand al-Qaida casualties. The Predator offensive is -- literally andfiguratively -- killing them.

Which leads, unfortunately, to Europe, and terror war inEurope.

Al-Qaida regards Europe as a weak link in its war with thecivilized world. It has what it regards as a good reason for this conclusion:The March 11, 2004, attack on Spain's capital, Madrid, gave the terrororganization it greatest victory in this long struggle.

Al-Qaida hoped the "3-11" assault would affectSpain's national elections and bring to power a government that would withdrawSpanish troops from the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. This would be the firststep in shattering the Iraq coalition and politically isolating the U.S. Atsome point, America would skedaddle as well, and al-Qaida would chalk up aneven greater strategic triumph.

With the assistance of defeatist politicians and defeatistmedia in Europe and the U.S., al-Qaida achieved its initial goal. Following the3-11 attack, "Socialist peace candidate" Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapaterowas elected Spain's prime minister. He ordered Spain's troop contingent toleave Iraq.

The U.S., however, has stuck it out, and so have the Iraqipeople, and in so doing have dealt al-Qaida a major military and psychologicaldefeat.

Yet al-Qaida's leaders cling to what they believe is a greatgeo-strategic truth: "If we kill enough of them, they will withdraw."al-Qaida theorists point to Beirut (U.S. Marine barracks, 1983) and inMogadishu, Somalia, ("Blackhawk Down," 1993) as examples of terroristaction leading to U.S. military withdrawal from what al-Qaida regards as Muslimterritory.

The Madrid and Mumbai attacks, and arguably 9-11, are a bitdifferent. In these cases, militant Islamist terrorists launched deep attacksin non-Muslim territory designed to affect counter-terror military operationsin other theaters (Iraq and western Pakistan) or what they touted as a U.S.military threat to Islam's holiest shrines (post-Desert Storm U.S. forces inSaudi Arabia).

On al-Qaida's grandiose map of the global caliphate,however, Spain is "al Andalus," a Muslim domain filched by theReconquista. In the minds of al-Qaida commanders, Madrid lies in Muslimterritory.

Berlin and Paris never knew Muslim rule, but German andFrench troops serve with International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) inAfghanistan. France has had special operations forces involved since 2001.Predators firing Hellfire missiles are killing terrorists in their Pakistanisanctuaries, and doing so relentlessly. Al-Qaida's senior commanders appear tobelieve a bloodbath on the Champs Elysee will force the Predators to withdraw. 

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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