- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The capture of Abu Farraj al-Libbi — al Qaeda’s third-ranking leader — by Pakistan last week is a blow to Osama bin Laden and his associates and another step forward for the war against jihadist terror. But just as it is important not to be demoralized when the terrorists achieve their horrific “successes,” it is equally important not to dwell for too long about the victories we win.

In a war that is likely to continue for many years, there will be many more captures of deadly, violent people bent on committing mass murder against those they deem enemies of Islam. But it’s sobering to remember that you can stop 99 out of 100 attempted terrorist attacks, and the one you fail to stop could be the bombing of a shopping mall, a suicide attack on a schoolbus, or crimes that could make September 11 seem tiny by comparison.

Nevertheless, the al-Libbi capture, carried out on May 2 by Pakistani authorities with active support from U.S. forces, is a blow to bin Laden’s terror operations. U.S. officials believe al-Libbi could be in a position to provide information about al Qaeda’s structure, its sources of funding and plans for forthcoming attacks. He is accused of orchestrating the two assassination attempts directed against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in December 2003. U.S. officials believe al-Libbi has had contact with bin Laden since December 2001, when the latter fled to Pakistan. If al-Libbi does talk, he may provide valuable information about bin Laden’s whereabouts.

At the same time, we should not delude ourselves. Even the capture of the al Qaeda leaders who outrank al-Libbi — bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri — would not eliminate the threat from the jihadists. More than 20,000 men were trained at al Qaeda camps during the 1990s, and many more are being recruited in western Europe among second- and third-generation European Islamists. We must expect some of them to attempt attacks against this country. The capture of the organization’s number-three terrorist is good news, and a vindication of Washington’s clearheaded approach. It is also a vindication of Pakistan’s determined policy to defeat terrorism.

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