The dramatic increase in drone attacks over the last few weeks is intended to disrupt the plot against European targets. One drone strike reportedly killed the head of Qaeda operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, known as Shaikh Fateh, just last Saturday. The Qaeda plot was in an “advanced but not imminent stage” and that intelligence agencies had been tracking the operatives “for some time.” The implication is that the onslaught of drone attacks, especially in the last month, has succeeded in thwarting the plot.
On Sept. 11, the anniversary of Al Qaeda’s attacks on New York and Washington, the head of France’s counterterrorism operations, Bernard Squarcini of the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence, said the risk of attacks on French soil has “never been as high” as it is now. Squarcini did not elaborate on the nature of the plots against the country, but he did touch on some of Al Qaeda’s motives for targeting France. The French Parliament’s recent passage of a law to ban veils covering all or most of a woman’s face is also a factor heightening the threat against the country. Such coverings are considered mandatory by many extremist Muslim groups, but even moderates feel the issue has been used as part of widespread anti-Muslim rabble-rousing in Europe.
Increasingly, the fight against Al Qaeda and its affiliates is a race: can the West penetrate its strongholds and eliminate its leadership faster than it can organize attacks in the West? Both sides have started a dangerous sprint, but the finish line is nowhere in sight.