The Pakistan Connection
Pakistani terror networks were behind the 7/7 bombings and the London airline plot. What will we do about it?
6:50 AM, Aug 11, 2006 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
IN THE COMING DAYS we will learn the details of the foiled, massive airline bomb plot. But early reports indicate that there are important similarities with the July 7, 2005 London bombings and the Pakistani terror network which orchestrated that attack.
Similar to the 7/7 bombings, reports indicate that the plotters had ties to terrorists operating in Pakistan. The British investigation into the 7/7 bombings revealed that the plot's ringleaders had traveled to Pakistan, where they likely "had some contact with Al Qaeda figures."
But while the terrorists' ties to the al Qaeda hotspot failed to register in time to stop the 7/7 bombings, they set off alarm bells this time. Several reports indicate that Pakistani intelligence officials played a role in breaking up the plot. The precise information Pakistan provided the British has not yet been reported, but it may have involved the plotters' ties to the same Pakistani terror network which had a hand in the 7/7 bombings.
The plot apparently began to unravel when Pakistani authorities arrested two British citizens of Pakistani descent in the last week to ten days. Starting from there, British, American, and Pakistani authorities connected the dots on the terrorists, leading to their compatriots in London, who also had ties to the Pakistani terror network.
The New York Times reports that "several of the suspected plotters arrested in Britain had traveled to Pakistan in the past two weeks and may have met with at least one person suspected of having links to Al Qaeda." NBC's Lisa Meyers adds that the would-be terrorists are "believed to have trained in explosives" and "money was wired from Pakistan to London, presumably to buy plane tickets."
Pakistan's willingness to fight terrorism has been uneven. While President Musharraf's regime has provided some key al Qaeda leaders and actionable intelligence in the past, it has also arguably not done enough to crack down on al Qaeda's rear bases on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border (and on other terrorists operating on its soil). But if the early reporting is right, Pakistan has now provided crucial cooperation in stopping the largest planned attack since 9/11.
It will be interesting to follow the details of the plotters' ties to Pakistan. Who did they meet with? Why hadn't Pakistan arrested those terrorists previously? Will the U.S. and U.K. pressure Pakistan to arrest those terrorists now, if they have not yet? Or, will the U.S. and U.K. attempt more aggressive measures, as they did earlier this year when America bombed a home thought to have housed al Qaeda's Ayman al Zawahiri?
Pakistan has now been the launching pad for one major attack and one planned attack on British soil. And while the Pakistanis have proven increasingly willing to cooperate with American and British counterterrorism officials, it is clear that a substantive al Qaeda network still operates from there.
Thomas Joscelyn is an economist and writer living in New York.