In 2007, the director general of Britain’s internal security service described al-Qaeda and its associated groups as, “the main national security threat that we face today.” Revelations that al-Qaeda linked terrorists planned to carry out Mumbai-style attacks in Germany, France and Britain once again underscores this fact.
The capture and interrogation of a German national returning to Europe from a Pakistani training camp revealed a fledgling plan to terrorize European cities through murderous shooting sprees. Through a series of attacks and attempted attacks, Islamist extremists have declared war on Europe and the United States, and despite President Obama’s unwillingness to acknowledge it, the West remains at war with terror.
Al-Qaeda’s relentless pursuit of mass murder atrocities should reinforce to Europe why the war in Afghanistan remains a central front in this war on terrorism. The NATO Alliance must continue to deny al-Qaeda a safe haven in which to operate by winning the war in Afghanistan, and more fairly sharing the burden of that war. With a few honorable exceptions, many of NATO’s European members including France and Germany have under-resourced the war in Afghanistan, short-changing the mission of military and civilian support. That cannot continue if the West is to successfully counter the on-going threat of terrorism. European, Pakistani and American intelligence agencies must also pursue aggressive counterterrorism operations including the eradication of terrorist training camps in the tribal regions of Pakistan.
Last month in Mali, al-Qaeda murdered an elderly French aid worker. Al-Qaeda continue to plan attacks on France from bases spread across North Africa and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon’s declaration that Paris is at war with al-Qaeda has been too long in coming. No country is invulnerable to al-Qaeda and its terrorist allies who remain committed to a long, asymmetric war against the West. If the war on terrorism is to be won, America and Europe must remain strong and reliable allies to one another and Europe must be under no illusion that it can take a back seat in the war in Afghanistan.