With a near strike on a flight to Detroit and a suicide attack in CIA agents in Afghanistan, terrorism has become the new focus of Barack Obama's presidency. US terror expert Bruce Hoffman tells that the threat of terrorism will dominate Obama's first term.Has the failed Detroit airline plot ruined all the progress made in the "war on terror"?
Hoffman: I think a watershed has been crossed. Over the past year, we have seen a dozen terrorism plots or attacks in the United States -- at least one a month, which is completely without precedent. Some are directly orchestrated by al-Qaida or one of its franchises, such as the Northwest Airlines plot on Christmas Day. Others are executed by individuals directly inspired by al-Qaida, such as the shooting spree at the Fort Hood military base.We also appear to be seeing a new dimension of home grown terrorism.
Hoffman: American citizens are functioning as "sleepers" -- as illustrated by the arrest of an Afghan-born US resident who was trained by al-Qaida in Pakistan and plotted to carry out coordinated suicide attacks in Manhattan. Also, there are individuals acting completely on their own who were not even radicalized by al-Qaida or its sympathizers. For instance, the US authorities prevented a plot in May to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military airplanes flying out of a National Guard air base near New York.The terrorism threat has become more diverse.
Hoffman: Exactly. We now have to face motivated recruits, trained al-Qaida terrorists, and loners who suddenly strike, like the shooter Nidal Malik Hasan in Fort Hood. I am worried that we have so many more attempts from so many different dimensions. That has a great impact on our already strained intelligence services.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Wouldn't that indicate that the al-Qaida network has been weakened and is now forced to resort to more crude attacks?
Hoffman: Quite to the contrary. If the movement was weakened you would not have so many different approaches. I think it is a new strategy of al-Qaida to have this large number of individual adversaries. They do this to create a distraction so that more orchestrated large-scale attacks can be prepared discreetly. The Detroit airline plot shows that these big attacks are still being planned.