Terror's New Theater
by Stephen Schwartz
In the brutal assassination of Benazir Bhutto, it appears that the shadow of Iraq has fallen over Pakistan.
It's not clear whether Western intelligence has gathered any real hard evidence of a formal shift in priorities by the terrorists from Iraq to Pakistan. But from the perspective of murderous jihad, such a shift certainly makes sense - because al Qaeda has failed in Iraq and faces too many obstacles in Afghanistan.
As retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni told Time magazine this week, al Qaeda is shopping for a new battlefield. "I really think they're trying to ignite Pakistan into the kind of chaos they need to survive," Zinni says, "and create a fundamentalist, even radical, Islamic government."
Meanwhile, Al Qaeda in Iraq is confronted with the US-led surge under Gen. David Petraeus, the consolidation of the Shia-majority administration in Baghdad and the widespread disillusionment of Iraqi Sunnis with al Qaeda's introduction of Taliban ideology in their country under the pretext of anti-American resistance.
Bottom line: Al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run. And the obvious place for Qaeda terrorists to seek sanctuary is Pakistan.
The Bhutto family is Shia Muslim by origin and, as Iraq has taught the world, Sunni radicals hate Shias even more than they hate Jews and Christians.
Pakistan has provided considerable financial and human assets to al Qaeda and effectively handed over much of its northwest frontier to the Taliban. Pakistan has also attracted the tattered remnants of defeated groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which once provided backup troops to the Taliban.
Pakistani jihadism is unique in its global reach. It's often forgotten that Pakistani armed combat groups have recruited local and foreign jihadists - including Americans who converted to Islam - to attack Indian forces in Kashmir. Islamists in the Pakistani communities abroad - especially in Britain - have been the main players in terrorism in Western Europe, the other region to which the terrorists have tried to move the jihad. Wahabi "lobby" organizations in the United States include many more prominent figures of Pakistani than Arab origin.
In shifting their focus from Iraq to Pakistan, the terrorist commanders must also have an eye on the most dangerous element in the global Islamic equation: Pakistani nuclear weapons, the existence of which cannot be denied. Pakistani nuclear engineer A.Q. Khan admitted providing atomic technology to North Korea, Iran and Libya.
The fatal attack on Bhutto was aimed not only at political reform in her country, but at her stated commitment to strengthen Pakistani action against the Taliban and local radicals and at Pakistan's support of the government of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan.
Ultimately, US soldiers in the region are no less threatened by Bhutto's killers.
America faces the same enemy in Pakistan as it did in Iraq.
And the chief fight in the global War on Terror may be about to shift to a new theater.