August 11, 2004


Qaeda arrests called 'lucky' break: Dud cellphone bomb triggered key captures (Farah Stockman, August 11, 2004, Boston Globe)

The recent string of high-profile arrests in Pakistan of Al Qaeda operatives accused of plotting against financial institutions in the United States resulted not from a meticulously planned counterterrorism operation, but from a lucky break, according to Pakistani police.

It was the kind of break investigators dream about: A cellphone that was to trigger an explosion on a busy road in Karachi failed to detonate the bomb.

The phone, connected to 18 pounds of explosives, led Pakistani police in the crowded port city to the bombmaker's house. There, police expected to find a local ''jihadi group" plotting violence against Pakistan, a police officer said. Instead, police found Musaad Aruchi, believed to be the nephew of a top Al Qaeda operative, who helped unravel the most comprehensive discovery of a terrorist plot against the United States since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Bush administration officials have touted the snowballing of arrests as proof of the president's success in the war against terror.

But Pakistani police credit the botched bombing, the cellphone discovery, and, more broadly, Pakistan's own internal war against extremists.

Just as Saudi Arabia's war on terror began in earnest when the violence threatened the Saudi royal family, Pakistan's intense investigations -- which have borne so much fruit for the United States -- also have at their root the Pakistani government's instinct for self-preservation, regional specialists and US officials say.

Of course, it wasn't lucky that the nutbags of al Qaeda provoked the Sa'uds and Pakistanis into joining the fight but a function of their fantasies trumping any tactical common sense.

There's a scene in Manhunter where Hannibal Lecter is worrying at Will Graham about why an ordinary FBI agent was able to capture an ubergenius like himself. Graham says that he had the advantage and an offended Lecter asks why: Because you're insane.

Similarly, America has always had the advantage in its wars with the isms not least because they are lunatic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2004 9:20 AM

I had forgotten about that cinematic exchange: it also explains quite a bit about the current political situation, does it not?

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 11, 2004 10:41 AM

The article seems to present the Pakistani assesment of reasons for the succesful roll-up as a contrary explanation to the Administration's touting. It seems to me they are not mutually exclusive but comlimentary.

The administration's explanation is framed in the strategic while the Pakistani's is just a fortuitous event. Can't the latter be be the result of the former, a subset class of the main set? Did Admin pressure on the Paks to act, dispatching of experienced AQ personnel, constant pursuit of the enemy in all quarters, etc, result in hasty planning by the enemy with hurried work employing (live) rookies not (dead) veterans? Hasn't the 'self preservation' mode of the Paks been excited as a result of their changing sides since 9/11, and, if so, then what caused that?

Luck isn't the only thing leading to this roll-up.

Posted by: John at August 11, 2004 2:15 PM

Fortune favors the prepared mind.

Posted by: Uncle Bill at August 12, 2004 3:14 PM
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