At least 20 separate strikes in 28 days this month so far, an unprecedented pace. And it’s paid off: According to Bill Roggio, a missile attack a few days ago might have killed Al Qaeda’s new operational commander in Pakistan. Follow the first link to the Journal and you’ll find only a few bare details about the terror plot they’re trying to disrupt — the main target is Europe, the Haqqani network in Afghanistan might be involved, but very little beyond that. Luckily, ABC has been digging and has new info:
US and European officials said Tuesday they have detected a plot to carry out a major, coordinated series of new terror attacks in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and possibly the United States…
Intelligence and law enforcement authorities in the US and Europe said the threat information is based on the interrogation of a suspected German terrorist allegedly captured on his way to Europe in late summer and now being held at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
US law enforcement officials say they have been told the terrorists were planning a series of “Mumbai-style” commando raids on what were termed “economic or soft” targets in the countries…
The captured German reportedly said several teams of attackers, all with European passports, had been trained and dispatched from training camps in Waziristan and Pakistan. Officials say the German claimed the attack plan had been approved by Osama Bin Laden.
Why is the U.S. worried about a plot involving German jihadis? Because, as ABC notes, German citizens don’t need a visa to enter the U.S. The Bagram prisoner who tipped them to the plot is reportedly a jihadi named Ahmad with ties to the same mosque in Hamburg patronized by some of the 9/11 hijackers and only recently shut down by German authorities. He was allegedly picked up in early July — and yet only in the past few weeks has the CIA ramped up the drone attacks in Pakistan. Is that because Ahmad didn’t spill the beans about the attack until recently or was it only within the last few weeks that some sort of corroborating evidence was discovered suggesting that things might be in motion?
There’s not much else to say for now, but I’m putting it on your radar screen in so that you have some context if you hear about any terror scares in Europe over the next few days. Like, for instance, this one. If you can spare the time, it’s also worth reading this NYT report on the newly ramped-up drone campaign, as it offers an altogether different motive for the strikes. The “terror threat” theory is that an attack might be moving forward and thus it’s crucial to disrupt communications by forcing jihadi commanders to go to ground. The Times’s theory is that Petraeus has lost patience with Pakistan’s promises to attack the Taliban’s safe havens across the border and is enlisting the CIA to help do the job that Islamabad won’t do. There’s a little tidbit about a terror threat buried way down in the article, but it’s almost an afterthought compared to the broader strategic goal of debilitating the Taliban vis-a-vis their capacities in Afghanistan. Exit question: Could the feds be emphasizing the terror-plot angle in order to justify escalating the drone campaign over Pakistani objections? It’s one thing to say we need to go all-out across the border because it serves our war ends, it’s another to say we need to do it as an emergency defensive measure because we’re facing an imminent attack. Pakistan will complain either way, but the second reason makes it easier to ignore them than the first.
Update: Sky News corroborates ABC’s report and claims that sources are saying the plot’s been “severely disrupted” — they think.
Sky’s foreign affairs editor Tim Marshall said militants based in Pakistan were planning simultaneous strikes on London and major cities in France and Germany.
He said the plan was in the advanced but not imminent stage and the plotters had been tracked by spy agencies “for some time”…
Marshall said the European plot had been “severly disrupted” following intelligence sharing between Britain, France, Germany and the US.
It is not known whether the attackers are already in Europe.
According to Marshall, “several” of the masterminds behind the plot have been killed by drone strikes.