Al-Qaida US has little future in the franchise

The description of Europe as a possible "platform" for a terrorist attack against the US by Michael Chertoff, the secretary for homeland security, is annoying, ironic and worrying. Annoying and ironic because, at least in the UK, the level of the threat owes a lot to the government's support for US wars - it provided the platform for the propagandists of jihad to reach out to the wider community. Worrying because the threat is both to the US and to ourselves. The US may be the most prestigious venue, but we know that the UK is second on the list.

It is additionally worrying because Chertoff is speaking from a position of comparative strength, which highlights how much more we still have to do over here. For the US, jihadism has always been an external threat. The 9/11 attack was made by foreigners who had bluffed or slipped their way in. Against the internal threat, the US has always been on much surer ground.

It is not all hunky dory in America. But I would be very surprised if a cell of US-born-and-bred jihadists were to emerge at any stage. "Al-Qaida US" has little future as a franchise. The way US culture works makes it difficult for immigrants to be disloyal; most profoundly want to be American.

In the UK, we are confronted by a growing internal jihadist threat against a wider background of non-violent disloyalty and disaffection and disdain for the country. The whole internal threat appears to be underpinned by external support and communication, principally from Pakistan but also from the Horn of Africa, which we have been slow to disrupt or reverse.

American security officials understand this. Chertoff's comments are a kind of external audit of Europe's counter-terror performance. Once the current series of UK terror trials are over and the facts are in the public domain, we may all come to share his views.

Crispin Black