- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2004

Before we convince ourselves al Qaeda is down for the count, check the stats.

Islamist extremists in the world as estimated by moderate Muslim leaders: about 12 million. Fundamentalist sympathizers: 120 million. Those numbers represent 1 percent and 10 percent of the world’s Muslim population of 1.2 billion. The CIA puts the extremists much higher — 40 million.

Then there’s the number who trust Osama bin Laden more than President Bush: a majority in Muslim countries whose populations total 450 million.

European intelligence services know an alarming number of mosques are privileged sanctuaries used by extremists. Self-proclaimed imams can choose any place, from a basement to a garage, and declare it a mosque, an Islamic place of worship.

Germany has 8,000 mosques, according to German intelligence officials, to minister to a Turkish minority of 2.4 million and some 500,000 North African Muslims. France has some 10,000 mosques for 6 million North Africans; the U.S. about 2,000.

Beyond normal Friday prayers in Western mosques, there is a common anti-American political message, virulent in Europe, more subtle and discreet in the United States. Intelligence chiefs on both sides of the Atlantic agree the Western world in general and the U.S. in particular now face a global ideological foe convinced the U.S. is the fount of all evil.

France is summarily deporting imams who preach hatred and jihad, including one recently who had been a legal Turkish resident for 28 years.

Nasir Ahmad al Bahri, known as Abu Jandal, a former Osama bin Laden bodyguard, interviewed by Al Quds Al Arabi, a London-based, anti-U.S. Arab daily, said last week: “Al Qaeda is no longer an entity but an ideology against America. … The plan is now to draw the U.S. into a confrontation with all the Islamic peoples. … Bin Laden and al Qaeda have succeeded in drawing the U.S. into an unequal confrontation, not from a military technology standpoint but from the ideological aspect. Muslims [are now] fed up with the U.S., which lives in prosperity off our nation’s resources. I believe the U.S. is heading for its demise. Now that it has found what it wanted, al Qaeda can melt into a new caldron, and a new giant would be reborn. … Many Islamic world leaders would join it, and the confrontation with the U.S. would be inevitable. Al Qaeda would then [be] a vanguard army.” A veteran of Somalia and Bosnia, Yemeni-born Abu Jandal joined al Qaeda in 1996, the year bin Laden moved from Sudan to Afghanistan.

The FBI’s recent arrests of two imams in Albany following a yearlong sting disclosed their interest in manpads (shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. Few of the younger U.S. counterintelligence agents realize manpads literally brought down the Soviet empire. With U.S.-supplied Stinger missiles, the Afghan mujahideen, many of them fathers of today’s al Qaeda terrorists, grounded Soviet fighter-bombers, gunships and troop transports. Only eight months elapsed between withdrawal of the last Soviet troops from Afghanistan on Feb. 15, 1989, to the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the liberation of Eastern Europe.

Therefore, it is reasonable to assume al Qaeda seeks manpads —several hundred thousand are former Soviet models readily available on the international arms black market — as the weapon bin Laden believes could paralyze the U.S. or at the very least, bring the world economy to a standstill. Three airliners brought down the same day in different parts of the world would probably send markets into a tailspin.

The U.S. government knows more about al Qaeda in Europe, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia than it does about the self-hating American Muslim admirers of bin Laden now under the spell of Wahhabi imams. Compared to the $100 billion plus the U.S. spent on intelligence since September 11, 2001, the resources devoted to the FBI’s counterterrorist efforts on the home front are paltry: $1 billion for 2004.

If the most respected member of the Muslim community in Washington, D.C., with easy access to the White House and Congress in the 1990s, can plea bargain his way out of a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah with more than $1 million of Moammar Gadhafi’s moola, it is again a reasonable assumption Abdurahman Alamoudi, a U.S. citizen, is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg. He was on the board of half a dozen “charitable” Muslim foundations in the tristate region, certified 75 Muslim chaplains for the U.S. Armed Forces, founded and once led the American Muslim Council (AMC), praised by the FBI Director Robert Mueller for its mainstream moderation.

More recently, Mr. Mueller testified before Congress he believes several hundred al Qaeda operatives are living in America. He deliberately understates the case to avoid the label of Islamophobe Muslim-basher.

Some 500 cases of suspected terrorist links are now under surveillance. If one includes al Qaeda’s support group of America-hating Muslim fundamentalists with U.S. passports, Osama bin Laden’s U.S. footprint is large by any measure.

The latest estimate of illegals in the U.S. is now closer to 12 million than the officially conceded 8 million. ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has 2,300 agents tasked with the apprehending and deporting some 80,000 “criminal aliens” in the U.S., as well as the detaining and removing 320,000 “absconders,” foreign nationals ordered deported and now on the lam. Several thousand Arabs and other Muslims are among them.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

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