Dr. Greg Austin
October 2005 Hard copy: £2.95, plus £1 p+p.
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The UK is not doing enough to defeat Al Qaeda and other jihadist terrorists who threaten the country and its citizens with mass murder. The UK is not alone in the dock, but it is in the dock. Osama bin Laden remains at large and Saudi Arabia remains an important point of origin for the export of terrorism, especially extremist sentiment and money. Saudi money is also feeding the insurgency and terrorism in Iraq. Not enough new money is going to MI6. Notwithstanding the attention paid to young male British Muslims after the attacks of 7 July, the bigger threat probably remains foreign members or followers of Al Qaeda.
At home, there is evidence of important weaknesses in intelligence and training of officials involved in counter-terrorism work, especially border control officials and police. There are weaknesses in intelligence process, a proposition demonstrated beyond all doubt by the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. There are not enough police dedicated to counter-terrorism work. The time delay in training new counter-terrorism intelligence officials is too protracted. There have been too few successful prosecutions under anti-terrorist legislation. There are doubts that the Crown Prosecution Service has been equipped to meet the counter-terrorist challenge, though that now appears to be changing.
There will be more attempts by the self-proclaimed jihadists to murder large numbers of Britons in coming years, either at home or abroad. Their campaign has been going on for over a decade and will almost certainly continue for another decade at least. Their tactics and targets will change in that time. To defeat this threat, the British community as a whole must 'know' its enemies and it must 'know' its own capacities to disrupt, capture or kill them. So far, it does not know either adequately.
The 'jihadists' can be found in almost any place that Muslim communities can be found. This is not a uniquely British phenomenon. In fact, it is the opposite. It is a global threat. The jihadists have thousands of 'members' (people trained in terrorist techniques) spread out around the world and a support network that spans more than 50 countries. The success of terrorist attacks in one place emboldens terrorists in other places to strike. As of July 2005, the jihadists were opening new fronts, drawing new recruits and recording important successes around the world – in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Africa and in Europe.