tv Inside Story Al Jazeera March 22, 2016 6:30pm-7:01pm EDT
>> it's a new day of mourning in a major metropolis. tonight, thoughts echoing from the center of belgium to virtually every city and town around the globe. explosions tearing through the airport and a subway station in brussels. a ruthless attack targeting ordinary people going about their day, just four days after the lone surviving and presumed
logistic coordinator from the deadly terror attacks was arrested there. so why brussels? is belgium the new front line in the new war on terror? it's the "inside story". welcome to "inside story," parts of europe are still on lockdown tonight in the wake of twin bombings that have claimed at least 34 lives. ripping through the airport. the late nest the deadly attack that's been attributed to isil. >> reporter: the immediate shock after the attack.
a haze of confusion and chaos. and a realization of what happened. once again, the routine of people's lives making every day journeys shattered, and the dash to escape the danger inside. >> i'm so scared. i feel like it's the end of the world. i heard an explosion, and all of ceilings going down, and i just go under the sink, and then the second explosion went. and everything is -- [ crying ] >> reporter: across the city, another attack in the maalbeek
>> these things are typically organized. you have your command cell, and your operating cell, and then cars, food, explosives, what have you. what's striking to me in both the paris attacks and now, the timing, the sophistication, and the command and control that someone is exerting across europe, and i think that it's worth remembering that edward snowden revealed many of our techniques of our intelligence agencies and our law enforcement to intercept these communication devices, whether it's through email, cellphone, what have you, and in fact, he exposed to the entire world the types of encryption that we continue penetrate. and i think that we're starting to see some of that come home to roost. >> reporter: well, there was
a report this week in the new york times, a fascinating report based on the french prosecutor's review of the paris attacks, and what's the most startling, to this day, investigators have yet to find a single email or chapter between the various suspects, and they may have indeed been using this kind of encryption. >> idea. and in that report, those types of encrypted communications were going on back and forth not only among the attackers, so it's a sophisticated network that's across the two countries, planning and launching multiple attacks. >> and pj, what do you think that this means looking forward? in a very short period of time, they have been able to carry out two very sophisticated attacks. and there e two that we know of, one in france and one in
belgium that have been disrupted between these two, and what does this say about the direction that they're going in? >> i think that it reinforce what's i think we understand about the threat that the islamic state poses, and we have to recognize that we're seeing a maturation of the jihaddist capability over the past 15 years or so. there are elements that started with al qaeda, and obviously, the transportation systems remain a very popular target. and i think that we're going to see a fairly straight line from paris, you know, to brussels. >> so do you think that there's an engagement or a mutual involvement? >> i think so. now, my instinct is that why now? probably because of the arrests last week, we're in a use or lose kind of situation. they have done some planning on this, and they have probably accelerate today because they
have feared closing in on it fairly quickly. >> but this seems to be something too sophisticated and executed and planned just four days before the arrest. you have to make the explosives and obtain the vests and the weapons and all of that kind of thing. >> they may have had a more sophisticated attack in the works, maybe five or six sites, who knows, in multiple parts of europe, but i agree with pj that the terrorist organizations now now, particularly when we pull someone alive through progression that anything this they had on them, our capability is going to have a quick ripple effect, and as quickly as possible. >> reheard from the foreign minister, that salah abdelslam had been planning an attack, and this could have been part of his cell, as you mentioned that, it was better to launch it quickly. >> not only planning an attack, but also "cooperating," which
if you're letting it out there, that the guy that you've got is cooperating, your piece of string just got a lot shorter. >> while some may have been accelerating, others went under ground. and in hiding so to speak. any time these guys move communicate, move explosives across borders, they're exposing themselves to possible capture. so i think that on the other hand, they accelerated, and on the other hand, i think probably other plots went to ground. >> pj, you're in the state department, and dealing with threat security. and one of the things that i'm most curious b. the failure of the belgium government to raise the threat level until today, after the attacks, and they said after the arrest of salah abdelslam that they believed that the attacks were imminent.
>> this is one of the most important calls, and after the arrest in paris, they locked themselves down for one or two days and didn't necessarily find anything, and so you have this kind of ying or yang. if you do go into lockdown, and you don't get the perpetrators, then there's a cost to that. and if you continue to say to your population, be vigilant but continue on, obviously there's a risk to that. so it's one of the more difficult calls that any government has to make. >> and it comes also with an economic price. >> absolutely right. so this is -- president obama has said, we're challenged here in terms of what kind of war we want to wage. and whether you want to wage it on the ground that meets our instructs or the ground that meets their aspirations. there's a tug of war here that we have to work our way through. >> is belgium the new front line? stay with us.
>> at least 34 people are dead after bombings in brussels this morning. has belgium become the new front line in the night against islamic extremism? my guests are here. this whole question of why brussels, why now, is brussels the soft underbelly? is europe the soft underbelly and brussels the softest part of the underbelly? why brussels?
>> well, a few things. these organizations are going to go after soft tarts where they can, and if you look at brussels, you have two languages and a somewhat fractured government, police force that's aren't necessarily maybe cooperating as well as they could with their intelligence apparatus in terms of connecting the dots. i think europe is a bit behind, just to be blunt and frank in terms of learning some of the lessons that the united states has over the years, and our own experience, and i think that you're seeing these groups in a very sophisticated way take advantage of some of those gaps, in particularly in brussels now. >> harley, you've looked extensively at isis's strategy and their thinking. why brussels? >> well, two things. one, we saw from the attack today, part of the purpose is to punish those countries that are act being against isis with the u.s.-led coalition, and the
attacks, pash of a concerted campaign to depolarize europe. so they hope that the destabilization can radicalize europe's muslim population. it has one of the largest foreign fighter populations and isis has a significant supporter population. >> of young people who have left belgium. >> who have left and gone back, like the mastermind of the paris attacks. who have left and come back several times. >> that's a problem, and it's a problem in this country, and clearly a problem in europe. what do you do, do you think with these populations of particularly young people who feel themselves isolated and ostracized from their cultures? >> i think that there's more than one dimension to this. obviously, the caliphate, and the schol list has brought the campaign to the caliphate and now the caliphate has
demonstrated that it can defend itself and defend itself beyond its borders, and the second dimension, from the caliphate, you have the capability there, and export that back to wherever you can find a location, you know, foreign operating cell. and obviously third is this self radicalization, and the fact that now you don't have to travel. you necessarily have to have a recruiter. you can do this online and self radicalize and self activate. there are different dimensions to this. like the paris attack, the middle aspect, where some capability came from syria, back to brussels and back to paris, and they have operations in familiar territories, and soft targets. >> i was struck by the work of
robert pate, in chicago, and he was published in a nation piece today. and he and his team have examined 400 suicide bombings since 1980. every one that they could find documented. and when they analyzed those bombings, their conclusion was that 93% of them were motivated not by religion, but by a response to military intervention, often military occupation, so i'm wondering if we're making a mistake, we collectively are making a mistake by focus on the islamic extremism factor here. >> on the one hand, that report, i think implies that interventions of the last 15 years are necessarily the fault of the intervener, and i think more specifically of the united states. >> promotes a reaction. >> right, and we weren't involved in places pre-9/11
that we were afterwards to necessarily cause the 9/11 attacks, which was one of the most massive suicide bombings in world history. but i do think that we need to focus on the radicalization piece. it's a war of ideas, i think that these folks have bastardized one of the world's most peaceful religions, of 1.6 muslims around the world. and they have radicalized it and twisted it, and turned it l into a cult. and i think that we're seeing folks with regional conflicts use religion to meet those ends, so i think that we have to focus on that piece. it may not help the suicide bombing phenomenon specifically, but i think that we need an overarching strategy. >> just to add to that, i wouldn't be able to divide the reasoning of responding to a
military intervention and religious reasons for looking at jihadi attacks, which is a strain of islam, where it stems from. and part of that is of course trying to push the united states out of the middle east and saying that it should have no place in that region, but also, it's inherently motivated by what isis says is a religious purpose that they desire. >> that's what their -- >> they're protecting the caliphate. >> i think that we have to recognize that over 15 years, this conflict has evolved. 15 years ago, or 20 years ago, bin laden declared war against the united states and the west, and you have a foreign enemy, but now we have this about defending the caliphate, the religious aspect. so you see there's a nexis to criminality. and certainly in the san bernardino case, there's a sense of alienation. you know, so it's not one
>> welcome back to "inside story". i'm sheila macvicar in for ray suarez. president obama has condemned the deadly attacks in brussels, pledging support from the people of the united states. and back with me, harlilne, pj crowley, former assistant secretary of state and counter terrorism and military expert, michael walsh. given what we have seen today in brussels, and last week in ankora, and earlier this month in abi john, and in november in paris, what do we do? if you were an adviser, you both have been in the position to be advisers, if you were an
adviser to this administration, what do you do? do you step up the tempo, do you put boots on the ground or is that what isis wants? to sucker us into a ground war? what do you do? pj. >> i think in terms of two lines. the first is what does it say about the capablehe islamic state, andhat is expanding. we have western sport forregials on the ira side with the iraqi military. or the syrian side with the collection of hopeful amount to something, and then trying to denominator, of all of themmon cotries that hav a stake in what's happening in syria. a huge challenge in terms of iran's intent, and turkey's intent, russia's intent, all
different. and so this president has to wrestle with, and probably the next one, at what point does this become so urgent that syria is spewing off so much radicalization, you can't afford to wait? and that's a very very difficult aspect. >> but the cross there is that, if they were attacking the crusader belgium because of its involvement in it. so you run the risk, and the more you do, it's very complex. >> the balance is very difficult. if you go back to iraq, we walked into bin laden's narrative, and it took us three or four years before we found our footing and our direction. that's something that we want to avoid, but by the same token, at some point in time you have to destroy the caliphate and have to wonder if the vel up to this point is enough to do that job. and that's a very very
ditffuluestion. >> . >> from the point of the isis fighters, we're already in the war, and we have been enemies, and in some cases launching an airstrike against them. i'm much less worried about alienating them, but i think that the question is that we're fitting into a narrative of what the u.s. has, we have want to build a society in those two countries in the areas that isis would want to be cleared from. so as far as going in or out, how we should play into them. >> mike, we saw the airport and station attack today. and we all take our shoes off at the airport and how is this going to change security? >> at a very operational level,
when you think about it, whenever you go to the airport in the united states, you roll your big suitcases up to the check-in counter, and big lines, and i wouldn't be surprised if you see it. sa and other authorities reevaluating when you go through security at the airport. are you going to get dropped off by your family member and immediately go through the security line? >> but then another problem, you have another security line, going inside of that line. >> when you think back to paris, and they only wanted to go after a soccer stadium. they are going to try to attack large numbers of people wherever they are. in this case, it was an airport, and before it was a downtown series of restaurants. that's the sad reality. and we he to figure o law enforcement, ielligence agencies c have as clear of a picture as possible, recognizing that, can they intercept every plot?
no, the answer is sadly not. >> i don't think that they can, and to go back to your previous point, we can only play so much defense. as long as the call fate exists, and as long as the leadership of isis is sleeping soundly at night and is not afraid that they were going to die, they're going to be able to recruit. and i think that we need to go to the effort, are we doing enough and doingiuf unilaterally, and one of the reasons that al qaeda is on the demise is because we took a very aggressive posture in western and eastern pakistan and they haven't been able to train and track and recruit like isis can. >> i want to thank my guests. hardlyim, pj crowley and michael wolf, that's the "inside story," i'm sheila macvicar, thank you for watching. good night.
>> this is aljazeera america, live from new york city, i'm tony harris. brussels attacked, isis claims responsibility for the bomb beings that killed dozens at the airport and subway. president obama said that this attack is another reminder that the world must unite. and encrypted information, what officials can really learn from cellphone conversations from members of