The news here is that this isn’t news.
Dozens of white Europeans have trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan’s tribal regions in recent months, U.S. intelligence sources tell ABC News, in what officials fear may be the beginnings of a new breed of al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorism.
Government officials suspect the terrorists, recruited in Europe, have been dispatched to plan attacks against Europe and possibly the United States. The alleged terrorists hail from Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Romania and Estonia, sources said.
There is growing evidence that some European recruits may have already gone operational. Two of the suspects arrested in a September 2007 plot to kill American soldiers in Germany were native Germans, and U.S. officials say they are investigating whether they were trained in Pakistan…
“They’re recruiting operatives from Europe. Why? If you’re from Europe, it doesn’t require a visa to fly to the United States,” Mike McConnell, the director of National Intelligence, said in a speech in March.
A “new breed”? Remember the suicide bomber graduation ceremony last summer (also reported by ABC), featuring one jihadi conspicuously speaking in English about an attack on the UK? How about Newsweek’s report from last October about “the English brothers,” an alleged A-team of nine Brits, two Norwegians and an Australian being trained by Al Qaeda in Waziristan as ringleaders to organize plots back home? The brothers were supposed to be a top-secret unit but Newsweek’s man on the scene supposedly saw one of them (“a European with light-colored eyes”) and, wouldn’t you know it, kept bumping into Taliban who had heard rumors about them. One eyewitness — a former Gitmo detainee who had evidently rejoined the team after being released — even dropped the name of Adam Gadahn as someone who’d been seen with the brothers. All of which is to say that, for obvious reasons of psychological warfare, Al Qaeda very much wants westerners to believe they have an army of undetectable well-trained white jihadis positioned in the west to strike. Otherwise they wouldn’t be jeopardizing valuable assets the way they did in putting on that dog and pony show for Newsweek or videotaping a suicide bomber graduation with, um, some of the recruits’ faces shown.
That’s not to say, of course, that the problem of jihadi converts isn’t real. They pop up all the time in terror plots: Gadahn is the most famous case but see this survey of “blue-eyed emirs” from the Jamestown Foundation for a more exhaustive list. Two of the suspects in the British airline plot were white and Canadian intel warned shortly before the Toronto plot was uncovered in 2006 about cases of white Christians being sucked into radical Islam. Not all converts are white either, needless to say. Steven Chand, one of the accused plotters in the Toronto case, was a convert from Hinduism, as was top AQ henchman Dhiren Barot. But whites are obviously at a premium since they blend in most easily; hence the emphasis in online recruiting on “white-skinned militants.” I just wonder what the ratio is between the actual number training in Pakistan and the number they’d like us to think they have with this periodic whispering about the trojan horses in our midst. 1:100, maybe? Ah well. One is all it takes.