Days after the death of Osama bin Laden, two men were arrested in New York City as they attempted to purchase a hand grenade, guns and ammunition for an attack on a Manhattan synagogue while disguised as Orthodox Jews. It was one of at least 39 terrorist plots against the United States that have been foiled since 9/11. And though the attack was averted and bin Laden is lying dead in a watery grave, the terrorism threat remains, and much must be done to continue ensuring America’s defense in a post-bin Laden world.
The primary front in the global war against terrorists remains the war in Afghanistan. And as if the world needed another reminder of the challenges there, news came this morning that a roadside bomb killed four NATO soldiers in east Afghanistan today, the latest in a surge of violence brought on by the Afghan Taliban’s “spring offensive.” It is clear that though bin Laden’s death may have been a turning point in the fight against global terrorism, the Taliban, al-Qaeda and its affiliates will not dissolve immediately.
Retreating from Afghanistan would be a mistake. The Heritage Foundation’s Lisa Curtis explains the dangers of retreat and the best way forward:
Any arbitrary U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would open the door for the Taliban to regain influence in the region and allow al-Qaeda and its affiliate organizations to regroup and revitalize. The U.S. instead needs to press its advantage in Afghanistan and demonstrate that it is committed to helping ensure long-term stability in the region.
Prosecuting the war in Afghanistan is not the only component piece of America’s continued battle against terrorism. As al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups will continue to stage plots against the United States, counterterrorism and law enforcement investigators will continue to need policies and tools to stop threats before they materialize. That includes ensuring the renewal of provisions in the PATRIOT Act and the Intelligence Reform and Prevention Act of 2004, including roving wiretaps, the disclosure of business records through FISA courts, and the power to track non-U.S. citizens acting as “lone wolf” terrorists.
Just as important is America’s leadership on the world stage. Unfortunately, for too long, President Barack Obama has led a public diplomacy apology tour all across the globe. The latest example came on Thursday during the President’s speech on U.S. policy in the Middle East, during which he glossed over major oppression in the Arab world, though lauding the “extraordinary change” in the region. Heritage’s James Phillips explains:
While [the President] talked at length about the violent regime reaction in Libya, he shortchanged discussion of the systematic repression in Syria and Iran and failed to announce concrete policies that would help beleaguered democratic forces in those countries to advance freedom and defend human rights.
A better move would have been to speak out strongly and unequivocally in support of the democratic movements in the Middle East and on behalf of dissidents who have been under government attacks, as Heritage’s Helle Dale writes in her paper “After bin Laden: End the Public Diplomacy Apology Tour.”
Following bin Laden’s death, there was great relief around the world, with wide condemnation of the terrorist leader. President Obama has an opportunity, as he begins a six-day tour of Europe, to reassert U.S. leadership on the global stage, rather than accept the notion that America is on the decline.
The death of bin Laden was the most significant victory in the war on terror since the 9/11 attacks, but it was not the last page of the story. Threats remain, and much work must be done to prevent another 9/11.