Yet, however shocking, we should not be surprised by recent events. In August 2010 I was asked to contribute to a collection of essays outlining the best approach to safeguard US Homeland Security in 2020. In other words, a road map for the next ten years.
In my essay I warned that "the quest to re-establish the Caliphate" was the greatest threat "which will face democratic governments and the international world order until at least 2020". I highlighted the importance of confronting "Islamist elements in the UK" and identified the UK as the "third front in the war on terror". I also warned of "the strategy of using European nationals to carry out attacks" and I suggested that "a member of the British Pakistani community entering the United States via the Visa Waiver Programme is the most likely source of another terrorist attack on the American Homeland."
Exactly four years later, I lament that so much that was predicted (by various commentators) has either come true or seems more likely to come true. Even more, I lament the West's failure to implement timely and effective measures to deal with these issues. Let us hope that the sudden shock of recent weeks has finally woken us from our slumber.
The importance of Anglo-American unity and leadership is even more critical now than it was in 2010. For this reason, and for the record, I post my original article below.
U.S. Homeland Security 2020:
The British Connection
Summer may be here but it is chilly in London. A cool breeze is blowing off the Atlantic from America. The long range forecast shows little sign of improvement and, should there be no break in conditions before 2020, this may lead to severe, even devastating, storms in both the United States and Great Britain.
Meteorology is notoriously unreliable. Unfortunately, this is not a weather forecast but a realistic national security projection. The security of the American Homeland is, and will continue to be, dependent upon the strongest possible strategic bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom; not only because of the common interests and shared political values that unite both countries but because, as the West’s principal operating base for militant Islamist extremists, America’s closest ally is also America’s greatest threat. Failure to cooperate closely and fully with the United Kingdom could have dire consequences for both countries.
Yet arguably not since the Suez Crisis has the Anglo-American “Special Relationship” been more strained. As American strategic priorities drift from Europe to Asia, British defence capabilities decline and the UK is drawn closer towards European integration, the fundamental importance of the relationship is in question. And, since President Obama has so far failed to demonstrate any political or cultural affinity with Great Britain, concerned advocates of the relationship, perhaps for the first time, appear unable to fall back upon the traditional paean to shared values and heritage....
This is not the time for distancing. The battle against Islamist extremists has not been won. Victory requires continued collaboration, coordination and, in some cases, integration by United Kingdom and United States officialdom, not only to tackle the problems posed by Afghanistan and Pakistan but also to confront Islamist elements within the UK, a country now regarded by many as the “third front” in the global war on terror.
British security services believe that over 2,000 people living in the UK pose a terrorist threat, with senior counter-terrorism officials claiming it is not a question of if but when the next terrorist atrocity is committed. This view was substantiated by the decision earlier this year to raise Britain’s terror threat alert from “substantial” to “severe”, the fourth highest of five threat levels. Due to the ease of travel between Europe and North America, and in light of al-Qaeda’s strategy of using European nationals to carry out attacks against the United States, the CIA believes that a member of the British Pakistani community entering the United States via the Visa Waiver Programme is the most likely source of another terrorist attack on the American Homeland. Last year four out of ten CIA operations to prevent attacks on America were conducted against British targets.
This lamentable state of affairs is partly the result of a deliberate campaign by Al Qaeda, the Pakistani-based Laskhar-e-Taiba and various other terrorist groups, to target, radicalise and indoctrinate young and impressionable British Muslims, a large number of whom are of South Asian origin. Their success, and the success of British-based Islamist extremists, such as the now outlawed al-Muhajiroun group, reveals the failure of the former British Government to implement effective immigration and asylum procedures, to expel foreign radical clerics and preachers of hate, to fully pursue those with links to terrorist organisations and to end—rather than foster—relations with immoderate self-appointed Muslim “community leaders”. It also highlights the endemic culture of political correctness which prevents serious discussion of fundamental issues and discourages the active encouragement of assimilation and the promotion of British identity and values.
The current British Government appears to understand the urgent need for action and is now embarking upon a more ambitious counter-terrorism plan which correctly identifies the terrorist threat as part of the broader and far more complex challenge which will face democratic governments and the international world order until at least 2020: Islamist ideology and the quest to re-establish the Caliphate.
Whilst it is incumbent on the United Kingdom to control its borders to prevent illegal entry, to ensure that student and work visa entrants are legitimate, and to effectively process and deport failed asylum seekers and other undesirables, it is in America’s best interest to cooperate with the British as closely as possible on Homeland Security to prevent British and European Islamists from infiltrating the United States. Over the next decade there are few issues which will be more important for America. Success can only be achieved by close cooperation with the United Kingdom and by coordinating policy to sever forever the terror connection between Pakistan and Britain.
Pakistan is the source of much of the financial and ideological fuel that powers British Islamist extremism. Pakistan’s ambivalence towards terrorism within its borders, and the global terror network this sustains, must not be tolerated. Let us hope that Prime Minister Cameron’s recent condemnation of Pakistan’s “export of terror”, which so angered Pakistan’s government, not least because he made the comment during a trip to India, is a sign of renewed British vigour. Terrorist groups acting from within Pakistan constitute a threat not only to the United Kingdom, the United States and India but to democratic Pakistan itself. The United States and the United Kingdom must hold their Pakistani ally to account and reserve the right of self-defence against any dereliction of duty.
Britain and America have long cooperated in the spheres of diplomacy, intelligence and counter-terrorism, and, perhaps most exceptionally, the military. Only through continued closely-integrated cooperation with the United Kingdom can the United States hope to see clear skies through 2020. Washington and London may have independently-evolving strategic interests beyond Europe and the Atlantic, but these do not require a diminution of the Special Relationship.
The UK and the US are unique and natural partners, possessed of a remarkably similar world view. The relationship is deep and multi-layered. Over the decades, Britain and America’s steadfast promotion and defence of their shared values of individualism, freedom, democracy, the rule of law, self-determination and respect for human rights as well as their common interests in free trade, open markets and political and economic global stability, have helped to liberate and improve much of the world. These values are still under attack but the battle is closer to home. A common threat to common values requires a common resolve.