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September 09, 2008

Why Pakistan Matters
Posted by Adam Blickstein

And why the Brits might understand this better than us:

Senior counter-terrorism officials describe it [the 2006 liquid bomb plot targeting several transatlantic flights]  as the "pinnacle" of a series of continuing threats to the UK that began in 2004 and originate from al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

Eight out of 10 top priority terrorist investigations in the UK have some connection to Pakistan, according to a number of counter-terrorism officials.

Threats have emerged from other parts of the world, including east Africa, and also from entirely self-sufficient home-grown individuals.

But officials say these threats do not have the severity of those coming out of Pakistan. And it is the latter that have the potential to have "strategic impact", say officials.

Though none of the suspects were convicted of the main charge related to the alleged airline plot, it does show just how crucial Pakistan is to our counter-terrorism efforts. The connections between the alleged attackers and Pakistan, and the various trips made between Britain and Pakistan by the terror suspects, underscore the negative consequences the deterioration of any coherent American strategy towards Pakistan has had. Of course Britain's deep historic ties to Pakistan, and large Pakistani immigrant class, make the British/Pakistan relationship far different from our own. Britain and Europe are more susceptible to so-called "homegrown terrorism." But the mutual threats we face are equally stark and real.

While the key suspects of the liquid bomb plot were British-born Muslims, the genesis of the plot would not have been possible without coordination with elements in Pakistan. This places it as more of a centralized operation than some of the more ad-hoc attacks that have been plotted or perpetrated in Europe and elsewhere. And while it was one of the largest and most successful counter-terrorism operations since 9/11, the domestic success in Britain is mitigated by the chasm which has opened up with our functional ability to prevent terrorist elements from flourishing in Pakistan and Afghanistan's tribal regions.

And remember, the liquid-bomb plot was hatched in 2004, at a time when the al Qaeda and militant presence in Pakistan and Afghanistan was comparatively weaker. Eight years later, al-Qaeda and terror elements there are resurgent and emboldened, not diminished. And eight years on, we are dangerously still are struggling for a strategy to tackle this threat.


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