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A New Dimension of Terror

London bombings show terror threat is now homegrown


PAKISTAN-BORN EXPERT: Imran Anwar believes the root cause of terrorism is hatred of U.S. and Western policies

While more than 100,000 U.S. and British troops do daily battle against terrorists in Iraq, their homelands are being left wide open to terrorist attacks from within. Police investigations have now revealed that four young British citizens of Pakistani origin appear to have carried out the London bombings on July 7, in which 52 people, including the bombers, were killed and more than 700 were injured.

The London attacks “show that the war on terrorism has become a lost cause,” said Imran Anwar, a Pakistan-born Asian-American global affairs analyst, in an interview with Beijing Review. Many local observers in London, who now reason that the fighting in Iraq is not shutting the door on terrorism at home, share Anwar’s views. The British capital blasts are even seen to represent a failure for the counter-terrorist efforts of the United States and its allies, which have cost billions of dollars and the lives of over 1,700 U.S. soldiers.

Anwar bases his argument on the fact that Osama bin Laden, who is neither Afghan nor Iraqi, should have been the primary target of the ‘war on terror,’ yet he is still at large. While the number of U.S. casualties keeps mounting, the numbers of terrorist events and places targeted have grown. “Even worse, the botched war on terror is creating many more terrorists, with Iraq becoming a training ground, and this could continue for generations to come,” said Anwar, a regular guest on TV/radio networks CNN and Fox News where he discusses international affairs and the war on terror.

David DeBatto, a former U.S. Army counter-intelligence special agent serving in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and security analyst, does not agree. “The West cannot prevent every act of terrorism,” he said, noting that the London tragedy represents a crack in Britain’s antiterrorist efforts. For the United States, the London attacks “really serve as a wakeup call to the people that have become complacent to the dangers of terrorism,” he told Beijing Review.

Stephen E. Flynn, a top expert on homeland security with the Council on Foreign Relations, also warned that there is risk for the United States to face more devastating attacks in the long run, even though Al Qaeda may now have a smaller presence in the country. “They’re not going to risk their limited resources on a lower-end attack,” he said.

SECURITY ANALYST: David DeBatto, a former U.S. Army special agent, thinks Britain was attacked to dissuade the country from supporting the United States

As to the question of who is likely to be the next target of terror attack, Anwar said, “Everyone is now a target.” And both he and DeBatto agree American interests will remain targeted for a long time. “But, anti-U.S. forces will also carry out a flanking strategy, perhaps attacking much more vulnerable allies, or unexpected targets,” said Anwar. We can expect to see incidents like the London attacks in any country that has supported the United States in almost any way, said DeBatto, who predicts countries with large Muslim populations like France, Holland and Germany are prime terrorist targets and could well find themselves under threat in the near future.

The world is now facing dual threat, Anwar noted. “While Al Qaeda-type ‘professional’ organizations will continue to focus on large-scale dramatic attacks, like that of September 11, 2001, in New York, much more terror can be carried out by ‘lone-wolf’-type individuals.”

Bombing buses, trains or public gatherings does not require professional training, a formal organization or even sophisticated equipment, experts noted, as demonstrated by the London attacks, in which conventional weapons, rather than weapons of mass destruction, were used.

In the aftermath of the London bombings, security issues have attracted much concern in the United States. The United States is still the focal point of all terrorist attacks and as DeBatto clearly points out, “The United States is ground zero for radical Islam. All other countries are attacked to dissuade them from supporting America.”

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has proposed a plan to restructure his department and the U.S. Senate is set to approve a bill increasing security funding. There is a rising call for more funds to improve security levels of mass transit facilities, as major American cities like London depend heavily on public transportation. But as observers point out, whatever measures are taken, one cannot expect police to ride on every train at all times.

The way to solve the issue long term, Anwar said, is not only to try to hunt an endless supply of terrorists, but also to solve the root cause, which is hatred among different peoples. DeBatto shares a similar view pointing out that very little has been done to reach out to the Muslim communities in the United States to enlist their support.