The presidents of the United States and Afghanistan have met. Can the strained relations between the two allies be repaired? Or will the American public’s patience with the difficult US and allied counter insurgency war against terrorism unravel? Much is at stake. Particularly whether we know our enemy and how to defeat it.

Entrenched in the public’s mind is the idea that Al Qaeda and Usama Bin Laden were behind the World Trade Center attacks of September 11. Like that attack, we think loose bands of individual terrorists remain the real threat we face, such as the Times Square bomber. So Americans rightly ask “Why are we in Afghanistan and Iraq?” And “Why don’t we just treat this like a law enforcement issue? With good police work we can stop the attacks before they happen.”

Let’s look at some facts first:

1. The Taliban were created in Afghanistan by the Pakistani ISI and the Saudi government five years after the Soviets left;

2. Al Qaeda [in Afghanistan]…was just one element in a "poisonous coalition of Pakistani and Arab intelligence agencies; impoverished young students bused to their deaths as volunteer fighters from Pakistani religious schools; exiled Central Asian Islamic radicals; ... and wealthy sheikhs and preachers who jetted in from the Persian Gulf”;

3. Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan were established in territory controlled by Hizb-i-Islami, Party of Islam. An Iraqi intelligence document, dated January 25, 1993, found by Americans in Iraq, states that “Iraqi intelligence established ties with Hizb-i-Islami in 1989 and had a direct relationship to its head and to which it provided financial support”; from these camps and from these state sponsors spawned the attacks of 9/11.

That was then. What about now?

1. Just as North Korea now ships weapons to Syria and Syria ships Scud missiles to Hezbollah, so do Gulf financiers now fund the terror groups in Afghanistan; so does Iran provide arms stockpiles to these same terrorists; so does the illicit narcotics trade combine criminal cartels and terror groups into a cooperative syndicate seeking power and money;

2. Much of the organized terror we face in Iraq is financed by ex-Baathists from Saddam’s regime, given sanctuary by the Syrian government, and recruits suicide bombers from the mosques and madras’s of North Africa;

3. In sum, just as there is “organized crime”, there is “organized terror.” And Iraq and Afghanistan are both countries in which the “terror masters” seek to establish their power and from which to organize and attack us.

We used to know this. For example, during the Reagan administration, it was widely understood that “organized terror” was largely the result of Soviet support and that of often allied states such as Libya, North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Syria and their associated terror groups. The attacks in Beirut and over Lockerbie were linked to Syria, Iran and Libya. The World Trade Center attack of 1993 was linked to Saddam Hussein. The Berlin disco bombing to Libya.

Iran is now described by our own State Department as the world’s premier state sponsor of terrorism. A recent DOD report said Iran is supplying tons of weapons to terror groups in Afghanistan and Iraq. A year ago, the city of New York indicted a major Chinese company for selling missile and nuclear weapons technology to Iran.

In a lawsuit against the Saudi government, American survivors of the attacks on 9/11 demanded to be made whole. The U.S. government, in the form of Supreme Court nominee Kagan, acting as President Obama's Solicitor General, argued that the case should not be heard even if evidence proved that the Saudis helped Al Qaeda. The U.S. argued it would interfere with U.S. foreign policy: “…the princes are immune from petitioners’ claims” because of “the potentially significant foreign relations consequences of subjecting another sovereign state to suit.”

Amazingly, this “let ‘em off the hook” policy does not only apply to the Saudis. Legislation passed by the House and Senate sanctions firms doing energy business with Iran—a key sponsor of terror. But the administration wants exceptions created for China and Russia. And sanctions efforts at the U.N. are likewise too often watered down, allowing nation state “suspects” such as Iran to go free.

Yet law enforcement is pursuing those who financed the Times Square “bomber.” Why not those who financed 9/11 and who finance terror today? Shouldn’t we keep our eye on the ball? 

Organized terror is the major tool of rogue regimes and their allies in seeking hegemony in various regions of the world. Terror groups can be created, controlled or penetrated by regimes and intelligence services. Attacks may look as if committed by “lone wolf” terrorists or small, loose bands of bad guys.

The Middle East happens to be the center of the world’s supply of oil and gas. He who controls this region of the world controls our economic destiny. The establishment of totalitarian Islam is but one means to that end. Getting America out is the first step.

So if we are going to fight, we have to understand who we are fighting, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, or here at home. We should understand that terror groups are often run by what Michael Ledeen calls “the terror masters.” And they together are part of “organized terror,” what Claire Sterling 30 years ago described as “The Hydra of Carnage”, the Soviet spawned terrorism we knew at the time as the Baader Meinhof, Black September, Red Brigades, FMLN, the PLO, and the IRA. As Yogi Berra said, welcome to the past, “it’s deja vu all over again.”