Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Failed airline attack raises fresh questions about battle against al Qaeda

departuresIn the absence of a coherent narrative about the failed Christmas Day attack on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, the debate about how best to tackle al Qaeda and its Islamist allies has once again been thrown wide open.

Does it support those who want more military pressure to deprive al Qaeda of its sanctuary on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, or suggest a more diffuse threat from sympathisers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa? Should the United States open new fronts in emerging al Qaeda bases such as Yemen and Somalia, or focus instead on the fact that the attempted airline attack did not succeed, suggesting al Qaeda's ability to conduct mass-casualty assaults on U.S. territory has already been severely degraded in the years since 9/11?

The evidence so far about the attempt by 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to set off an explosive device on the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit can  pretty much be stacked up in favour of whatever argument you want to make.

Abdulmutallab was from a wealthy family in Nigeria, where al Qaeda and its Islamist allies have been trying to make inroads, by and large unsuccessfully so far. Residents in his family home town said they believed he was radicalised during his studies abroad, which included education at a British boarding school in Togo, followed by a course in engineering at the prestigious University College London.  He would not be the first educated young man to be inspired by Islamist radicalism in London -- among those who came before him was Omar Sheikh, convicted for the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl in Pakistan.

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