Europa må forstå faren ved ekstremismen som vokser frem i grenseområdene i Pakistan og Afghanistan. Europa risikerer å våkne opp til et 9/11 slik Amerika gjorde, sa forsvarsminister Robert Gates på en sikkerhetskonferanse i München mandag.
«I am concerned that many people on this continent may not comprehend the magnitude of the direct threat to European security,» Mr. Gates said. «For the United States, Sept. 11 was a galvanizing event, one that opened the American public’s eyes to dangers from distant lands.»
In a hall filled with government officials, lawmakers and policy analysts from around the world, Mr. Gates added: «So now I would like to add my voice to those of many allied leaders on the Continent and speak directly to the people of Europe. The threat posed by violent Islamic extremism is real, and it is not going to go away.»
«Just in the last few weeks, Spanish authorities arrested 14 Islamic extremists in Barcelona suspected of planning suicide attacks against public transport systems in Spain, Portugal, France, Germany and Britain,» he said.
«I am not indulging in scare tactics,» Mr. Gates stated. «Nor am I exaggerating either the threat or inflating the consequences of a victory for the extremists. Nor am I saying that the extremists are 10 feet tall.»
He said the task facing Europe, the United States and allies around the world «is to fracture and destroy this movement in its infancy — to permanently reduce its ability to strike globally and catastrophically, while deflating its ideology.»
The «best opportunity as an alliance to do this,» he said, «is in Afghanistan.»
In his speech, Mr. Gates said that while many NATO governments «appreciate the importance of the Afghan mission, European public support for it is weak.
Many Europeans question the relevance of our actions and doubt whether the mission is worth the lives of their sons and daughters.»
But they «forget at our peril that the ambition of Islamic extremists is limited only by opportunity,» he added.
Gates nevnte at det er påvist direkte forbindelser mellom celler i Europa og kontakter i Afghanistan/Pakistan.
«Some have met with top leaders or attended training camps abroad. Some are connected to Al Qaeda in Iraq.» He was referring to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the largely local insurgent group that American intelligence officials say is foreign-led.
He said the suspected Barcelona terrorist cell appears to have links with a terrorist network commanded by extremists in Pakistan thought to be affiliated with the Taliban, the former rulers of Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda.