As terrorists become more aggressive, U.S. must fight back

Posted: Wednesday, December 18, 2002

The plot to kill U.S. diplomats abroad is further evidence of the need to persevere in the war on terrorism.

Three men were arrested Sunday in Pakistan when large amounts of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer used to make explosives, was found in their car. One of the trio confessed they were planning to load the front of the rear-engine vehicle with explosives, then ram it into a car carrying American diplomats.

He also led authorities to a warehouse that was packed with the material.

Not surprisingly, these men were not amateurs. They had been trained in a terrorism camp in Afghanistan -- and one of the suspects had been linked to a suicide bombing in May outside a Karachi hotel, where 14 people died.

Significantly, the terrorists may not have been linked directly to al-Qaida and, according to early reports, didn't seem to have any direct grievance against the United States. Their cause was to wrest control of all Kashmir from India, an area that now is divided between India and Pakistan. That appears to indicate terrorists are trying to kill Americans to make statements about unrelated conflicts.

Also, The Washington Post is reporting that the terrorists hatched their plot as part of a general change in strategy after an attack outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi during the summer failed to kill any Americans.

"Assessing the strength of the building," one of the suspects was quoted as telling authorities, "we decided to target American diplomats as they traveled on city roads." If that is a trend, diplomats are going to be far more vulnerable.

Pakistan, of course, is a U.S. ally. It was an adversary at one time but switched sides when the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Some of its people support terrorism, however, and they reportedly are harboring many of the surviving al-Qaida members.

Pakistan simply cannot control its porous borders with Afghanistan and very likely will continue to be a haven of safety for those dedicated to killing Americans. Since the government there is friendly, the terrorists have no fear of a U.S. invasion.

It has been more than a year since the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks. The Bush administration's successes haven't won the war on terrorism, of course; they have merely forced the enemy to change strategies. A long struggle lies ahead, and every available U.S. resource needs to be poured into it.

-- The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Dec. 17

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