- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 19, 2004

This week’s report of terror charges being brought by Britain (and perhaps soon by the U.S. government) against Dhiren Barot, aka Eisa Hindi, and his associates constitutes fairly stunning evidence of success against the al Qaeda terrorism threat to America. And, while the danger remains high and the struggle will continue for perhaps generations, President Bush deserves some credit for effective leadership in the war on terror to date.

To review the bidding, Mr. Barot was identified in the computer files seized recently in Pakistan as suspected of surveilling U.S. financial buildings in New York, Washington and New Jersey. It was that information that led our government to go to orange alert on Aug. 1 and led the British government to arrest Mr. Barot and his associates on Aug. 3.

Pursuant to that arrest, evidence was found in his possession of a “reconnaissance plan” for the Prudential Financial Headquarters in Newark, N.J., “likely to be useful to terrorists between Feb. 19, 2001 and this month,” according to British authorities. Mr. Barot was further charged with possessing reconnaissance plans for the New York Stock Exchange, the Citigroup Center and the IMF Building, as well as papers on explosives, poisons and chemicals.

It is fair to draw the inference from these public facts that a major terrorist attack on America has probably been thwarted. Hundreds — perhaps thousands — of lives (and the ensuing psychic agonies of the survivors), as well as billions of dollars, have been saved by the collective efforts of the American, Pakistani, British and other unnamed governments.

And yet no headline, no breaking cable news graphic, announces this success, as they do the death of a soldier or civilian in Iraq almost every day. This is understandable as death is absolute and its immediate cause is obvious (a bomb, a mortar, a bullet shot), while the avoidance of death resulting from many individual and collective efforts is ambiguous and its cause is obscured by the shadows in which the defensive covert actions and classified information necessarily occur.

Nonetheless, this great triumph that appears to have saved New York City from a second devastation is not causeless. While myriad elements went into the success, it is hard to avoid seeing our relations with Pakistan as central to this and other successes. And it is precisely on this point of U.S.-Pakistan relations that Mr. Bush deserves some significant credit.

This healthy, productive relationship could easily have been quite otherwise. Just three years ago, Pakistan was closely allied with the Taliban, while its relations with the United States were strained by both its nuclear testing and its support of anti-Hindu terrorism. After September, Mr. Bush established — with the deft use of both carrots and sticks — a modus vivendi with Pakistan as a primary pillar of our war on terror.

It has not been an easy relationship because, as this page has repeatedly pointed out, Pakistan’s ethnic, religious and political interests do not neatly coincide with ours. Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have had to exercise both forbearance and firmness to keep Pakistan’s security services working toward our common security interests.

The deft management of Pakistani nuclear proliferator Abdul Qadeer Khan is a case in point. It would have been both easy and politically popular here in the United States if Mr. Bush had self-righteously grandstanded against Mr. Khan. But given Mr. Khan’s popularity and President Pervez Musharraf’s tenuous hold on power in Pakistan, restraint by Mr. Bush was the wiser decision.

Likewise, it would have been very easy to have overplayed our military hand in the contested, and terrorist infested, no- man’s-land between Afghanistan and Pakistan. But Mr. Bush correctly recognized that good, working relations with the Pakistani government and its military leaders is a strategic asset, while any individual maneuver would have yielded only tactical advantage.

For almost three years Mr. Bush has managed our relations with Pakistan with shrewdness and nice judgment. This week it yielded a noticeable success in thwarting a second major terrorist assault on New York (and possibly Washington and New Jersey). Continuing to successfully manage that difficult relationship will be a key to our continuing success in the war on terror.

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