MOSCOW, July 8 (Gennady Yefstafyev, Lt.-General (Ret.), Foreign Intelligence Service, for RIA Novosti)
In the last few months the West was inclined to believe that the notorious Al Qaeda was more dead than alive, and that the allied coalition was finishing off what was left of its forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. As for the acts of terror perpetrated in the Caucasus and Moscow, these were primarily attributed to the local "freedom fighters". The involvement of international terrorists was viewed as rather unlikely.
American officials and even experts started saying that Al Qaeda and adjacent terrorist groups were crushed and disrupted, that their scattered and small units were hardly capable of mounting a well-orchestrated act of terror on a large scale.
This situation was presented as the Bush administration's major success in the global war on terrorism. In some cases vigilance was giving way to unjustified optimism.
London was no exception. It believed that it could reach a tacit understanding with the "surviving" terrorists along the following lines: "Don't touch us, and we'll cast a blind eye to some of your doings." Incidentally, many political and even government leaders of other European nations, such as Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark,
have long been pursuing the same policy.
This policy was obviously myopic. International terrorism has its own agenda and is purposefully implementing it despite the sustained losses. Blasts in London bear this out once again.
When international terrorists decided that the time had come, they did not think twice before giving up a comfortable and calm life that London had offered them in no uncertain terms and taking to decisive actions. It would be a mistake to link the blasts to London having been elected as the venue for the 2012 Olympics. The planning and execution of these acts of terror leave no doubt that Al Qaeda had timed them to coincide with the G8 summit. The preparations took months and were very thorough. Only several groups of seasoned terrorists could have mounted such a well-coordinated attack under a single plan and schedule. They obviously have many accomplices, probably even in the law-enforcement bodies. At any rate the timing was precise: the best security forces left London for Scotland because of the summit.
Indicatively, the secret services, even in Britain, did not receive any warnings of the upcoming attack. Some experts on terror qualify this as the failure of the secret services in the leading countries of the world to resolve the main task by common efforts, notably, to infiltrate those terrorist structures that stand behind such major attacks. Of all these Al Qaeda was the first one to regain its strength after the huge losses sustained two years ago, and to revive its capability of waging struggle even in places with tough security.
Ironically, Tony Blair ranked anti-terrorism eighth on the G8's list of priorities. But this is obviously not the right time for gloating.
At one time the secret services quite correctly described Al Qaeda as very persistent and patient in preparing for its major actions. They also pointed to its ability to feign the impression of being incapable of any large-scale operation. These conclusions should never be forgotten.
Al Qaeda wants the world to believe in its death. This impression is buttressed by minor actions that take place quite frequently. But these actions, obviously prepared in haste, are staged by some local amateurs who have nothing to do with Al Qaeda.
This time Al Qaeda made its presence in London abundantly clear. Moreover, it is bound to plan even more sophisticated and dangerous actions in the foreseeable future.
Apparently, the blasts in London will encourage secret services to enhance their cooperation in the struggle against international terrorism. Hopefully, the world community will again put cooperation in this struggle to the top of its list of priorities, and that this cooperation will become closer, more sincere, consistent and effective.
Otherwise, we'll have to wait for another major act of terror the place and time of which will be picked up by international terrorists who know what they are doing. The stakes are high: the lives of dozens and hundreds of innocent people whom the powers that be pledged to protect.