The American Interest

The Jihadist Fifth Column: The Cure

Contrary to numerous optimistic assurances from high places, three years after September 11, the reach and operational capability of Islamic terror cells remain strong.  They are present in areas previously closed to the recruiters of future “martyrs”—notably in Iraq—and in countries where, only a decade ago, they did not have a significant presence (e.g.,  Indonesia).  The United States has been temporarily spared fresh outrages, but the rest of the world has not, and it is to be feared that there will be many more New Yorks, Balis, and Madrids in the years to come.

Al Qaeda and its loosely linked offshoots are diversifying their range of possible targets to include vital infrastructure and energy installations in the West.  They are also fielding a new generation of recruits, many of them Muslim immigrants and their offspring in Europe and North America.  The decentralized pattern makes countermeasures difficult, especially with self-motivated young people deeply embedded in Western host societies—such as the five young U.S.-born Yemenis from upstate New York convicted last year of plotting terrorist attacks, or the eight U.K.-born British citizens of Pakistani descent charged last summer with plotting attacks on financial institutions in the United States.

It is alarming that the political class in the United States remains unwilling to examine the implications...

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