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The Debka File

The question asked often in the articles, analyses and programs marking the 5th anniversary of the attacks on New York?s Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington is: Why has al Qaeda never launched another attack in America on the same scale? There are plenty of answers: a homeland security department was created, intelligence services are better coordinated within the US system and with outside agencies; some even say there are no Muslim terrorists in the United States, or that the numbers of those still at large outside America have been pared down and disabled by the global war on terror. But the true explanation is to be found in the modus operandi of al Qaeda and its fellow Islamic terrorist organizations, which consists mainly of these elements: 1. The element of time ? or patience: Al Qaeda and its regional jihadist affiliates in the Far East, the Middle East and the Europe-North Africa branch set their clocks according to a time system quite unrelated to that of the US or intelligence - or for that matter any military or terrorist outfit geared to the principle of instantaneous cause and effect. They have all the time in the world and endless patience, because their operational tempo is dictated by the tenets of their brand of fundamentalist Islam. It took al Qaeda two years from the planning stage in early 1991until implementation in February 1993 to execute its first attack on the Twin Towers of New York. Since the targeted buildings were left standing with ?only? six people killed and some 1,000 injured, Al Qaeda judged the operation a failure. There and then, its master planners began plotting the next attack, which was finally executed eight years later on Sept. 11, 2001. Similarly, in 1994-95, al Qaeda operative Ramzi Yousef failed to carry out a plot to hijack 12 airliners taking off from different departure points in Asia and supposed to blow up over American cities. A New York district court sentenced him in 1998 to 240 years solitary confinement. Yet the plot was not abandoned. Al Qaeda patiently assembly a new scheme and was ready to put it into practice 13 years later. In July 2006, British security authorities discovered a plot to hijack 6-10 American airliners from British airports and explode them over American cities. What this means is that al Qaeda will keep on trying, however long it takes: time is no object. 2. No clues left at the scene of the crime: The perfect terrorist crime is a typical feature of al Qaeda?s methods of operation. Its operatives never leave behind clues that might betray the mastermind of any terror plot. Six years after a suicide bomb-boat rammed a gaping hole in the American destroyer, the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden; five years after 9/11; two years after the Madrid rail bombings; and more than a year after the lethal explosions on London trains and a bus, not a single US, European, Middle Eastern or Israeli intelligence service can claim to have a lead to the plotters, the organizers or the individuals who launched the terrorists on their missions of death. The same applies to dozens of smaller attacks. Neither has any counter-terror agency any clear concept of how the mechanism which sets the attacks in motion works. There are plenty of theories, but no solid information ? a lacuna which raises two serious problems. First: It partially explains why al Qaeda has not carried out a large-scale attack inside America. The organization does not lack local cells or the ability to penetrate the United States. In an open society, that poses no difficulty. But al Qaeda?s master-terrorists want to be absolutely sure that their next attack leaves no tracks leading to the level which controls the perpetrators-suicides. That is the sine qua non for Osama bin Laden?s operation and that is the insuperable challenge confronting Western intelligence. Second: Notwithstanding American intelligence and counter-terror achievements in the war on terror, and the elimination of many high-profile operatives, still somewhere in the world an al Qaeda team or teams are putting together a horrendous terrorist attack for execution in the United States, Europe or Israel, which may take one year, 5 years or twenty to perpetrate.

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