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The Terrorists Fight On

2:00 PM, Sep 11, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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It is true that while Sunni extremists have killed tens of thousands of people abroad in recent years, they have been far less successful in killing citizens of the West in their home countries. The vast majority of the Sunni extremists’ victims have been Muslims living elsewhere.

Should we take comfort from this fact? Some implicitly do. But it is both morally callous and myopic to dismiss violence in the Middle East and Africa as irrelevant to us.  America has many Muslim allies around the world and turning our backs on them now is remarkably short-sighted.

Prior to 9/11 al Qaeda killed far more Muslims than non-Muslims. The August 7, 1998 attacks on America’s embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, for example, killed mostly Africans and Muslims. The embassy bombings were still a harbinger of things to come for Americans. There is a direct relationship between the jihadists’ war in foreign lands and their plotting against the West.

And while the professional Sunni extremist/terrorist network (as opposed to so-called “homegrown extremists”) has failed to execute an attack in the U.S. in recent years, it is not for a lack of effort. There have been five major terrorist plots launched from abroad against America since 2009. These are: al Qaeda’s 2009 plot against New York City commuter trains, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP’s) failed Christmas Day 2009 attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, the May 2010 attempted bombing in Times Square, AQAP’s attempt to detonate two bombs shipped on cargo planes in late 2010, and another plot by AQAP to attack a U.S.-bound airliner this year.

In three instances, vigilance and clever counterterrorism work foiled the terrorists’ designs. In two cases (Christmas Day 2009 and the Times Square plot), we simply got lucky as hundreds of Americans could have been killed.

And none of this addresses the constant drone strikes in northern Pakistan, many of which have targeted al Qaeda operatives plotting against the West. Europe has been targeted by the al Qaeda network repeatedly in recent years, too. Just recently, Spain broke up a plot by three well-trained al Qaeda operatives. And counterterrorism officials broke up a massive Mumbai-style plot against European cities in 2010.

While many in America today want to believe that the fight against terrorism is over, the terrorists continue to fight.   

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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