by RAY FLEMING

THE main focus of interest in Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's botched attempt to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 just before it landed at Detroit on Christmas Day has been on how he was able to board the plane given the available evidence of his probable links to terrorist organisations. Of much greater importance, however, is the fact that what is known about Abdulmutallah's contacts and training puts very serious question marks over the logic of the US, UK and Nato involvement in Afghanistan. Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Andres Fogh Rasmussen have stated clearly that their forces are in Afghanistan first and foremost to protect their citizens at home from attacks by terrorists trained by Al-Qaeda in its safe havens in Afghanistan.

But it is known that Abdulmutallah was trained by Al-Qaeda in Yemen -- and might as easily have been trained by it in any one of several rogue or failing states -- so the importance of Afghanistan in this respect is probably much less than has so far been claimed, although other factors remain. The speed with which Gordon Brown, in conjunction with Washington, has called a special emergency meeting on Yemen in London later this month underlines the sudden realisation that Al-Qaeda has in effect opened a new front in its war with the West and that answering it again by military means would be a more profound mistake than the Afghanistan presence is at risk of proving to be. Very clear thinking is needed.

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