They have failed so many times. But they are patient.
1999. Abu Nasir, a 27-year-old from Bangladesh, entered India with the intent to bomb U.S. diplomatic missions in India and Bangladesh. With him was a contingent of highly trained terrorists from Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan.
Mr. Nasir himself since 1990 had been part of this extensive network of terrorist organizations-under the leadership of Osama bin Laden. Talent scouts recruited him first for administrative duty in mujahideen training camps of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Next he received specialized weapons training in Afghanistan and intelligence-gathering courses in Pakistan.
By the end of the decade he was heavily involved in cross-border operations in India, and ready for a select assignment. Among other targets, he and his associates were to load explosives onto a Jeep that made daily visits to the Bank of America office located inside the U.S. consulate in Chennai, India.
Chennai and other U.S. targets in India never made headlines because Abu Nasir was arrested in New Delhi carrying four pounds of explosives and five detonators. His case-along with the trial earlier this year of four bin Laden associates convicted in New York City of plotting to kill Americans in U.S. embassy bombings-has provided courtroom glimpses into a bin Laden underworld that spans the world.
Mr. bin Laden has transformed the terrorism industry with an international network that includes terrorist cells and training camps operating from the Middle East to the Philippines. These are not wild-eyed pistol wavers. Bin Laden recruits are more likely to be multi-degreed professors (or commercial pilots) than Islamic school dropouts or street criminals. Highly educated in the best schools of Saudi Arabia himself, Mr. bin Laden over the years has won to his cause doctors and other professionals from the Muslim world's elite. His operations are fronted through Saudi charity organizations, Sudanese banks, and London think tanks.
The reach of that network could put him out of reach to U.S. law enforcement. Mr. bin Laden has appeared on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List since 1998, when Bill Clinton singled him out for retaliation after over 200 people were killed in embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
Will a homeland attack call for a new manhunt? Likely. Jihad terrorists, however, have not been sitting on their Kalyshnikovs these three years. Anti-American sentiment is well stoked, and nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons likely now appear in their supply cabinet.
At a three-day terrorist convention of sorts held earlier this year in Beirut, Mr. bin Laden's Al-Quaeda organization joined forces with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah to pledge themselves to joint jihad, or holy war. Their immediate aim: the destruction of Israel. But why stop there?
That Beirut declaration of war did not make front-page headlines in the United States. Now Mr. bin Laden has achieved a major victory and won the attention of the world. World War II cost six years of blood, sweat, and tears, and millions of lives. What will this war cost?