Politics & Policy

Al Qaeda Advances…

…as Congress retreats.

On the same day last week parts of a draft National Intelligence Estimate were leaked, saying al Qaeda might be surging toward pre-9/11 strength, the House of Representatives voted (mostly along party lines) to end our surge in Iraq against the likes of…well, al Qaeda.


Yup, last Thursday in the tawdriest example of pure political theater in quite some time, the House approved a measure calling for the president to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq — the central front in the fight against al Qaeda — within 120 days.

Of course, the meaningless House bill offered no thoughtful alternatives for how to deal with the challenges in Iraq, including the nightmare of giving a decisive military — and public-relations — victory to al Qaeda. Just withdrawal — plain and simple.

(Funny how many of the liberals that excoriated the White House for having no plan for going into Iraq, now, ironically, have no real plan themselves for getting us out.)

You gotta wonder whether some members of Congress are more interested in job security in 2008 than our national security in 2007.

But make no mistake about it, we’re not out of the woods in this struggle against al Qaeda in Iraq or elsewhere, including here at home.

In fact, early last week, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff set off alarm bells when said he had a “feeling” in his gut about another terrorist attack here this summer.

No wonder.

Just look at what we’ve seen in London. Since the deadly July 2005 bus and subway bombings, Britain has seen a number of attempted attacks, including the recently botched car bombings in London and Glasgow — which smack of al Qaeda.

Britain’s domestic-security service, MI5, is reportedly tracking — if you can believe it — tens of terrorist plots, hundreds of terrorist cells, and thousands of terrorist suspects, many with suspected al Qaeda ties.

While the United Kingdom seems pretty far away, the al Qaeda attempt to bring down ten airliners out of London last summer using liquid explosives was clearly an attempt to reach out and touch us.

And has Congress taken note of what’s going on in Pakistan? Al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden and deputy Ayman al Zawahiri, are holed up there in the Pakistani Hindu Kush along the Afghan border among sympathetic tribesman.

Worse yet, those al Qaeda elements are rebuilding around Bin Laden and Zawahiri, where their extremist followers have found a new safe haven for propagandizing and conspiring to replace their old stomping grounds in Afghanistan.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, an important, but imperfect partner, has been under siege lately, too, battling a creeping Talibanization of Pakistan as exemplified by the recent standoff at the Red Mosque and attacks this weekend by al Qaeda-linked militants.

Plus, now, our spooks are nervous. Portions of the leaked intelligence report indicate al Qaeda is stepping up efforts to get operatives into the United States, and has acquired most of the capabilities it needs to strike here — again.

Other bad news in the report? Al Qaeda is still pursuing weapons of mass destruction, and there’s increasing concern about individuals in the United States, who are embracing al Qaeda-type Islamic extremism.

So, let me get this right: Al Qaeda’s reaching into the United Kingdom, centering us in the crosshairs, reconstituting in Pakistan, and fighting us tooth and nail in Iraq — and some in Congress are sounding the trumpet for retreat?

Great, just great…

Failure in Iraq, could put American cities under the same terrorist threat as British cities are today. As the venerated former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, would say: This is no time to go wobbly.

First, Congress must give the surge in Iraq a chance to succeed. We’re still in the early days. At a minimum, engaging al Qaeda in Iraq keeps them from taking their terror tradecraft elsewhere, including here.

Second, the White House must convince Musharraf he’s got a big problem with al Qaeda. (He’s likely turned that corner since the Red Mosque.) Then, Congress should be willing to give Pakistan the support he needs to go after these guys.

Third, will someone remind Congress that fighting terror isn’t about scoring cheap political points? It’s about American national security. The quickest way to lose a war — which we’re certainly still in — is to stop fighting.

And that loss of resolve and political will, unfortunately, is exactly what Osama bin Laden and his foot soldiers in Iraq — and elsewhere — are hoping for.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and the author of: A Devil’s Triangle: Terrorism, WMD and Rogue States.

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