Bad Moon Rising

Well, the anniversary of the Sep. 11 attacks is drawing near, and there’s bad mojo coming out of Afghanistan once again. I’m not a defeatist — I think our incursion into Afghanistan threw al-Qaeda’s plans into disarray, which has to be counted a success — but recent events have me wondering if maybe we’re not about to see another big move by bin Laden’s side.

By “recent events”, I’m referring to today’s botched assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the car bomb attack on the Ministry of Information and Culture in Kabul, which killed 26 people and wounded over 100.

I have a sinking feeling that we’re seeing a replay of events from last year — events which presaged Sep. 11. And if we are, it raises the troubling prospect of al-Qaeda seeking to mark the anniversary with a bang.

Odds are the name Ahmed Shah Massoud doesn’t ring a bell for you. Trust me, it should. Massoud was a guerilla fighter who had, through force of will and spirited leadership, pulled together the ragged forces opposing the Taliban in Afghanistan into a unified force, the Northern Alliance. He then used the tactics he had learned fighting the Soviets to lead his troops to some pretty impressive victories over Taliban forces (which he viewed as no better than the Soviets, since they weren’t primarily Afghan either — they were funded and trained by the Pakistani government). He led them so ably, in fact, that he became known as the “Lion of Panjshir“, after the Panjshir Valley where he made his base camp.

That all ended, however, when the Taliban found a way to finally strike down the Lion of Panjshir. They disguised two suicide bombers as journalists, managed to get them into Massoud’s camp on the pretext of seeking an interview, and had them detonate their explosives when they finally got close to Massoud himself. He was killed instantly. The Taliban, and the al-Qaeda network that pulled the strings in their government, had finally brought down their fiercest enemy.

The date? September 9, 2001.

That’s right, Sep. 9. Two days later al-Qaeda, feeling that their position in Afghanistan was finally secure, launched their plan to demolish the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and potentially another major landmark too (we’ll never know which one, thanks to the heroism of the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93). And you definitely know what happened then.

Which is why today’s events are striking and eerie. Today, the biggest enemy al-Qaeda has in Afghanistan is… President Hamid Karzai, who, with U.S. backing, is attempting to bring stability to Afghanistan; which, if successful, would shut al-Qaeda out of its best home base for good. And today, someone — all signs so far point right at bin Laden and al-Qaeda — tried to knock Karzai off the board once and for all.

You can’t help but hear echoes of Sep. 9, 2001, when the Lion of Panjshir was silenced and al-Qaeda was freed to pursue their master plan. And you can’t help but wonder if today’s mayhem wasn’t intended to be the opening volley of another offensive, this one designed to remind Americans on or near the most traumatic date in our collective memory that we are still vulnerable to terror.

If we’re lucky, that’s not the case — or it is the case, but the failure to remove Karzai has sent bin Laden’s rats scurrying back into their holes. I, for one, am crossing my fingers.