The country of just 11.2 million people faces widening derision as being the world’s wealthiest failed state — a worrying mix of deeply rooted terrorist networks; a government weakened by divisions among French, Dutch and German speakers; and an overwhelmed intelligence service in seemingly chronic disarray.
It is also home to what Bernard Squarcini, a former head of France’s internal intelligence, described as “a favorable ecosystem: an Islamist milieu, and a family milieu,” which played an important role in sheltering Mr. Abdeslam and also perhaps in Tuesday’s attacks.
“It shows that they were in a neighborhood that can shelter cells for months, because it is a neighborhood that is favorable to them,” he said, referring to Molenbeek, a Brussels district. It is where the Paris attackers lived and where Mr. Abdeslam was able to hide among family and friends.
The cultural code of silence in the heavily immigrant district, as well as widespread distrust of already weak government authorities, has provided what amounts to a fifth column or forward base for the Islamic State.
Others emphasized that progressive layers of new security measures can go only so far. Absent a military-style occupation, the threat from a well-established network with some degree of local complicity can never be completely forestalled, experts said.
“This shows the limits of the actions you can undertake in a state of emergency,” like the one Belgium had in place for weeks, said Philippe Hayez, a former official with the D.G.S.E., the French external intelligence service.
“These are time-specific, superficial,” added Mr. Hayez, who has written extensively on Europe’s intelligence challenges. “But unless you occupy it militarily, you don’t hold a town just by circulating police cars. We’re talking about guerrilla terrorism. And there’s a population that’s complicit.”
Read the whole thing.
There’s a population that’s complicit. In Belgium last month, 100 refugees in a camp got into a massive brawl over a Syrian woman who refused to wear a headscarf. Yes, by all means, bring more men like this into Europe, Chancellor Merkel. What could possibly go wrong?