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from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Failed airline attack raises fresh questions about battle against al Qaeda

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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.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan and Britain: On exits and entrances

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With one million Britons of Pakistani origin, and as the former colonial power, Britain has a unique relationship with Pakistan. But concerns about Britain's vulnerability to bomb attacks planned by Pakistan-based militants -- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said that three-quarters of the most serious plots investigated by British authorities had links to al Qaeda in Pakistan -- has made for a rocky relationship.

Irfan Husain, a columnist for Dawn newspaper who divides his time between Britain and Pakistan, writes that these tensions are being worsened by the problems Pakistanis have in obtaining visas to visit Britain.

from Ask...:

“We should talk with al Qaeda”, ex-Blair aide says

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powell.jpgThe government should look at ways of opening communication channels with groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban if it wants a long-term political solution as well as a security solution, a former senior aide to Tony Blair says.

Jonathan Powell, who served as Blair's chief of staff between 1995 and 2007, told the Guardian newspaper that such a policy helped secure a peace deal in Northern Ireland.

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