Photo: "Safe haven" for al Qaeda in Chatsworth Road in Hackney, east London -- not Afghanistan.
One of the platitudes on war in Afghanistan is that we must remain to prevent al Qaeda from returning to Taliban safe havens, just as though the Taliban offered the only potential safe havens to al Qaeda in the world. Sorry, folks: what we know as "al Qaeda" is everywhere -- from Gaza to Thailand to Mumbai to Madrid to Yourtown, USA, all of which seems somehow disconnected to the national security debate.
Al Qaeda is also, of course, in London.
Today's UK Telegraph reports on Rashid Rauf, a British-born Pakistani they call the "British al Qaeda commander," who has navigated between England and Pakistan to plot jihad terror. The US believes we killed him in a drone attack; British security services believe otherwise. New details of his role in jihad terror attacks have come to light, which the story recounts;
Rashid Rauf, a key “facilitator” behind the July 7 and July 21 attacks of 2005, played a key part in the plans to launch a terrorist attack from Heathrow airport it can be disclosed.
The airlines plot was part of a network of terrorists that stretched from the streets of Birmingham and London to the highest levels of al-Qaeda which took in every major plot in Britain over the last three years...
Streets of Birmingham and London? Somewhat more accessible than mountain redoubts in Near East Asia.
His targets included the successful attacks of July 7 2005 which killed 52 people, and the failed attacks of July 21.
Security sources believe Rauf housed both the July 21 and airline bombers as they arrived at a safe-house in Bahawalpur where he worked as a travelling salesman.
Bahawalpur is in Punjab, supposedly one of Pakistan's more stable regions.
Investigators believe he acted as a fixer for both the July 21 and July 7 bombers sending the bombers up to the mountains of the lawless tribal areas to meet with al-Qaeda’s bomb-makers to learn their deadly trade.
As the airline plot developed the controllers in London were in constant telephone and email contact with Rauf who was arrested in Pakistan but later escaped....
No word on how the "escape" happened, but I somehow doubt there was more derring-do involved than the greasing of palms and a few secret handshakes.
Now guess where "al Qaeda" was recruiting for and planning jihad? Helmand Province? Ganjgal? Kabul? The Telegraph continues:
The al-Qaeda recruiting offices were two Islamic shops on Chatsworth Road in Hackney, east London. The first, the al-Koran Islamic bookshop, was run by Mohammed Hamid, who used the nickname Osama bin London --
What a sense of al-humor --
and recruited and trained the failed suicide bombers for the attacks of July 21 2005.
Hamid, who was later jailed for life for soliciting to murder and providing training for terrorism, met Yassin Omar, one of the leaders of the July 21 plot, at his bookshop in 2003. Opposite the bookshop was an unregistered charity called the Islamic Medical Association (Kosovar) run by Mohammed Patel which was used by the airline bombers as cover for their travel to Afghanistan from January 2003.
I'm sorry. Inspector Clousseau comes up with better "cover."
The men claimed they visited refugee camps with the charity and worked as ambulance drivers but it is more likely that they actually travelled into Pakistan’s remote tribal areas to meet up with al-Qaeda.
And then were allowed back into the UK to go about their (wink, wink) "business." Of kiling infidels. Naturally.
We won't devise a winning strategy until we connect these dots: "al Qaeda," which is merely the name-brand for this epochal flare-up of Islamic jihad, will not be contained until it is understood to function globally. Our victory requires not the massive deployment of "nation-building" armies in one or two remote areas, but the targeted, intensive deployment of force as necessary, cunning everywhere and a decisive affirmation of Western survival instinct.