Why a Terrorist Strike on Europe Risks Geopolitical Meltdown

Policemen patrolling near Berlin

From Tony Karon, Time:  Bad as they are, right now, relations between the U.S. and Pakistan could get a whole lot worse if a feared Mumbai-style terrorist plot materializes in Europe.

One reason for the fraying of ties is the dramatic escalation in the Obama Administration’s drone war in Pakistan’s tribal areas. September saw more missiles fired from drone aircraft than any month on record, purportedly aimed at disrupting possible terrorist attacks planned for European cities — fear of which has also prompted travel alerts by the U.S. and allied governments. And the campaign has not relented. Pakistani officials claim that eight suspected militants of German citizenship were killed in a drone strike on a Waziristan mosque on Monday. …

Explaining the recent terrorism-threat alerts and travel advisories announced for European cities, security officials have been widely quoted in the media suggesting that intelligence points to a coordinated attack, originating in Pakistan, that would see gunmen deployed to wreak havoc on the streets of major European cities in the way that they did in the Indian city of Mumbai two years ago. Drone attacks have reportedly been stepped up in the hope of disrupting that plot, allegedly revealed by a captured German of Afghan descent.

Following the Mumbai massacre, carried out by the Pakistan-based jihadist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, the U.S. had to work hard to restrain India from retaliating by bombing facilities in Pakistan used by the various Kashmir jihadist groups long cultivated by Pakistani intelligence — mindful of the danger that such an action could provoke a war between the nuclear-armed neighbors. But if Western cities were the target of a successful strike, it would be NATO that would be under pressure to respond. Indeed, according to Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars, Obama’s National Security Adviser General Jim Jones told Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari that if Faisal Shahzad (the Pakistani-American sentenced to life imprisonment in New York City on Tuesday) had succeeded in his attempt to bomb Times Square last year, the U.S. "would [have] been forced to do things Pakistan would not like." Woodward wrote that retribution would entail the bombing of "up to 150 known terrorist safe havens inside Pakistan." If Jones’ warning, as reported by Woodward, is to be taken seriously, it’s not hard to deduce that a series of attacks in Europe that emanate from Pakistan would force a similar response.  (photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

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