As the world sends its sympathy to the victims of the recent terror attacks in Brussels, the most fervent prayer to be uttered for Belgium itself is that it finally wakes up. The incompetent Belgian government, its bureaucratic law enforcement agencies and its half-hearted intelligence services deserve as much blame for the slaughter as the murderers.
For more than a decade, the bumblers in Belgium have stood by as terrorist hotbeds emerged in their midst. Speaking to Newsweek on condition of anonymity, frustrated intelligence officers in other European countries slammed the Belgians, saying that they have failed to do the basic legwork to detect terrorist cells in neighborhoods around Brussels, with their efforts instead focused on groups that all but announce themselves, such as Sharia4Belgium, whose leaders were prosecuted last year. Belgian law enforcement has few contacts or informants in the areas around Brussels where terrorists live. Only in the last few months has Belgium started pumping greater funding to intelligence efforts and to recruiting more personnel.
Belgium’s lackadaisical approach to Islamic terrorist cells has placed much of the continent in danger, which is why government officials from the European Union and the United States have been quietly pressing its leaders to shape up, intelligence officials say. The terrorists who have set up shop in Brussels are only a short drive from Paris, Strasbourg, Amsterdam, Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and Berlin.
Few in the intelligence community were surprised to discover that the November terrorist attacks in Paris were organized in Belgium, led by a Belgian named Abdelhamid Abaaoud, and included a suicide bomber and shooter from Belgium. That attack was the deadliest in the European Union since the 2004 Madrid train bombings, whose perpetrators included Belgians in a terrorist cell that was part of the Groupe Islamique Marocain Combattant.