Al-Qaida has spawned a new generation of homegrown jihadists who are harder to detect but just as deadly as those who inflicted the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000, terror expert Walid Phares tells Newsmax.TV. These budding terrorists focus on inflicting pain at symbolic times, which makes the Christmas season a prime period to attack, says Phares, an adviser to the Anti-Terrorism Caucus in the U.S. House.
“We’re not dealing anymore with the Mohamed Atta-type of the 19 who attacked us on 9/11,” Phares said in the exclusive Newsmax.TV interview. “We’re dealing with people who are born in the West and in America and in Western Europe, people who have converted. I mean we’re talking about from the shoe bomber to Jihad Jane.”
The up-and-coming, homegrown terrorists are just as “adamant and determined to attack liberal democracies both in Europe and in the United States. They are known to be very symbolical, so Christmas holidays, this is what they’d like to do,” said Phares, whose new book is “The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East.”
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Coincidentally underscoring the potential for holiday attacks was the Iraqi authorities’ announcement Friday that they had obtained confessions from captured insurgents who admitted that al-Qaida plans suicide attacks in the United States and Europe during this season. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari described the claims as "a critical threat" during a phone interview with The Associated Press
Phares, a senior fellow and director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, offers a simple prescription for winning the war on terrorism in his book: Cultivate opposition to the terrorists at grass-roots levels of society.
The Obama administration isn’t taking the opportunity to tap democratic forces in countries where the terrorists thrive, he said, adding, “What the administration should do is engage not with the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood and these organizations, but women, students, artists, cab drivers, civil society forces in the same way we recognized them in Eastern Europe before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Iran is a good example of where the approach could work, Phares said. During violent street protests in Iran, 60 percent of the 1.5 million who demonstrated in Tehran were women, with a majority younger than 18, he said.
“What we should have is the option of allying ourselves with the Iranian people against the Iranian regime,” he said, adding, “We have all the tools at our disposal. What we don’t have is a policy.”
Similarly, President Barack Obama’s plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan are misdirected, he said.
“What the president is basically telling us is that, as far as we have a situation in Afghanistan today, we’re going to have it the day we are going to withdraw, which means the Taliban won’t be defeated.”
However, the United States could salvage the situation by reaching out to the next generation in Afghanistan, he says.
“Without really engaging in, mobilizing, the next generation of young Afghanis, those who were10 in 2001 are 18 and 19 and 21 in the next few years, these should have been the generation we should have educated, mobilized, and helped to defeat the Taliban,” he said. “If we withdraw in 2011 without that societal change in Afghanistan, Afghanistan will be ruled again by either chaos or the Taliban.”
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