Captured al-Qaeda leader Khalid Shiek Mohammed has confessed to dozens of terrorist plots, including the September 11 attacks. KSM apparently had his hands in everything from attempts to attack Big Ben and Canary Wharf in London to attempts to assassinate former Presidents Carter and Clinton. Given Mohammed’s high position in al-Qaeda, it’s not surprising that he was intimately involved in the operational planning of nearly every major al-Qaeda operation before his capture.
September 11 was not an isolated incident, but a pattern of escalation that has been ongoing since the early 1990s and will continue so long as al-Qaeda has the operational capability of attacking the United States or other nations that don’t adopt their radical views. We’ve been lucky that none of al-Qaeda’s attempted strikes against the United States have succeeded. Others have not been so lucky.
The war on terrorism is not a war solely against the United States, but against any ideology that contradicts the austere form of Islam spread by al-Qaeda — including moderate Muslims. The capture of Khalid Shiekh Mohammed was a major blow against al-Qaeda, but hardly a fatal one. It isn’t a matter of if they strike again, but where and when.
We’ve been lucky so far, but we can’t play defense forever. Sooner or later someone like Khalid Shiekh Mohammed will be able to get past even the best homeland security efforts — and if they have access to nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons the results could be unimaginable.