Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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A Useful Reminder of the Enemy's Efforts
The Los Angeles Times has an interesting story on the ongoing efforts of al Qaeda to carry out a high-profile strike, particularly in Europe.

Several things stand out in the article. One is the amount of evidence that could not be introduced in British court in the recent mixed verdict, despite the fact that "intercepts and other evidence indicate that leaders of the plots had contact with each other, converged in Pakistan and were trained by Al Qaeda bosses, officials said."

It is always striking to me how much information, after it is gathered and often held for a significant period time-far past the time it would compromise sources and methods-is simply unusable in court.

A second thing is that the plotters were apparently all getting together in Pakistan and training with the old-guard al Qaeda core group. It is interesting that, despite the conflict in Iraq and many other places where these groups could train-including in Great Britain, they still go back to the "homeland" of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

I suspect this considerable time, risk and expense is viewed as worthwhile because the blessing and knowledge of old guard al Qaeda is still viewed as something to be sought at almost any cost, at least among certain groups of _jihadis._

This, in turn, speaks to the great appeal and moral authority still exercised by bin Laden and his immediate circle. Clearly there is a decentralization and franchizing out of the broader radical Islamist network, but to me this undercuts some of the appeal of the argument that we are dealing almost exclusively with a leaderless network. Yes, there are leaderless networks, or segmented groups that operate, but it seems the blessing of the old guard is still valuable to significant groups.

Finally, the story contends that:

Security forces have detected a new trend starting this spring: Dozens of foreign fighters leaving Iraq have found refuge in Bosnia-Herzegovina rather than returning home, according to two senior European anti-terrorism officials. The veterans are assisted by an infrastructure of Arab militants who obtained Bosnian passports after fighting there in the 1990s, officials said.

"They go from Iraq to Bosnia and stay there awhile," an anti-terrorism official said. "They are mainly North Africans. It's not easy, but they enter Bosnia and live semi-clandestinely with the help of the mujahedin who have always been there. Eventually some show up in countries like France or Italy."

This shows that, once radical Islamist networks are established, they almost never go away. The remnants of them remain and can be reactivated. The Bosnian war was more than a decade ago, and many of the _mujahadeen_ that were granted citizenship have had their passports revoked.

But the network lives on, as do the poisonous networks in Latin America (the Ortega wing of the Sandinistas, the Communist Party in the FMLN in El Salvador, the FARC and elements of Hugo Chavez's intelligence structure). It is far better to keep the networks from being built up than it is to try to eradicate them after they have been established.

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