Al Qaeda’s success in forging close ties to Pakistani militant groups has given it an increasingly secure haven in the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan, the American government’s senior terrorism analyst said Tuesday.
Al Qaeda is more capable of attacking inside the United States than it was last year, and its cadre of senior leaders has recruited and trained “dozens” of militants capable of blending into Western society to carry out attacks, the analyst said.
The news is not surprising—the NYT has made the threat in Western Pakistan its top Middle East story for months now. And while this report seems to confirm what they've been writing, that Al Qaeda has reestablished a credible threat to the United States in the hinterlands of Pakistan, I stand by the series of posts I've put up here lately that the best strategy for dealing with the Qeada threat is defense.
There are four plays to this defensive strategy:
1) Support the emerging democratically elected, parliamentary coalition in Islamabad.
2) Continue spook work to monitor Qaeda plots—which will be easier if the terrorism analyst is right and Al Qaeda goes operable in the U.S. According to my military source, PEQ-2A: "If AQ 'goes western' with their operatives, then they have also unwittingly opened the door for us to penetrate the organization and destroy it from within. While you could easily argue that having western looking operatives allows them to blend in better with 'us' — that conduit works both ways. Once we have penetrated the organization—then it's through. Potentially, this is the mistake we have been waiting for them to make."
3) Keep a military presence in Afghanistan that draws Qaeda out into battles on Afghani turf.
4) Do targeted strikes against Qaeda and Taliban sites in Western Pakistan when the opportunities come up.
These are all wise alternatives to destabilizing Pakistan with a full-on offensive—an option that is likely to sink the emerging government and feed Qaeda's M.O. Qaeda wants the U.S. to fight on their turf and their terms. Yawn.