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What If: The Greatest Threat - An Al Qaida-Drug Cartel Alliance

  • JUAREZ, MEXICO - MARCH 21:  Mexican police investigate a violent incident on March 21, 2010 in Juarez, Mexico. The border city of Juarez has been racked by violent drug related crime recently and has quickly become one of the most dangerous cities in the world. As drug cartels have been fighting over ever lucrative drug corridors along the United States border, the murder rate in Juarez has risen to 173 slayings for every 100,000 residents. President Felipe Calderon in 2009 disbanded the corrupt local police force and sent 10,000 soldiers to Juarez, but the violence has raged on. With a population of 1.3 million in Juarez, 2,600 died in drug-related violence last year and 500 so far this year, including two Americans who worked for the U.S. Consulate last weekend as they returned from a children's party.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

    JUAREZ, MEXICO - MARCH 21: Mexican police investigate a violent incident on March 21, 2010 in Juarez, Mexico. The border city of Juarez has been racked by violent drug related crime recently and has quickly become one of the most dangerous cities in the world. As drug cartels have been fighting over ever lucrative drug corridors along the United States border, the murder rate in Juarez has risen to 173 slayings for every 100,000 residents. President Felipe Calderon in 2009 disbanded the corrupt local police force and sent 10,000 soldiers to Juarez, but the violence has raged on. With a population of 1.3 million in Juarez, 2,600 died in drug-related violence last year and 500 so far this year, including two Americans who worked for the U.S. Consulate last weekend as they returned from a children's party. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)  (2010 Getty Images)

  • JUAREZ, MEXICO - MARCH 25:  Police stand near the car where the body of a 13 year old boy lies dead, one of numerous murders over a 24 hour period, on March 25, 2010 in Juarez, Mexico. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano all visited Mexico on March 23 for discussions centered on Mexico's endemic drug-related violence. The border city of Juarez, Mexico has been racked by violent drug related crime recently and has quickly become one of the most dangerous cities in the world to live. As drug cartels have been fighting over ever lucrative drug corridors along the United States border, the murder rate in Juarez has risen to 173 slayings for every 100,000 residents. President Felipe Calderon's strategy of sending 7000 troops to Juarez has not mitigated the situation. With a population of 1.3 million, 2,600 people died in drug-related violence last year and 500 so far this year, including two Americans recently who worked for the U.S. Consulate and were killed as they returned from a children's party.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

    JUAREZ, MEXICO - MARCH 25: Police stand near the car where the body of a 13 year old boy lies dead, one of numerous murders over a 24 hour period, on March 25, 2010 in Juarez, Mexico. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano all visited Mexico on March 23 for discussions centered on Mexico's endemic drug-related violence. The border city of Juarez, Mexico has been racked by violent drug related crime recently and has quickly become one of the most dangerous cities in the world to live. As drug cartels have been fighting over ever lucrative drug corridors along the United States border, the murder rate in Juarez has risen to 173 slayings for every 100,000 residents. President Felipe Calderon's strategy of sending 7000 troops to Juarez has not mitigated the situation. With a population of 1.3 million, 2,600 people died in drug-related violence last year and 500 so far this year, including two Americans recently who worked for the U.S. Consulate and were killed as they returned from a children's party. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)  (2010 Getty Images)

The worst terrorism threat may be yet to come.

When Iran was accused of trying to hire a Mexican drug cartel hit-man to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. – and to do it in Washington, the seeds began to take root.

Muslims make much of the prohibition against the use of alcohol or drugs, yet the Quran makes allowance for doing things that would never be allowed, if the goal is to deceive the infidel and to kill the infidel.  This is how the Taliban get around the sin of selling opium to the cartels and organized criminal enterprises of the world.  It is how jihadists do a lot of things that the holy book frowns on.  The point is – we are a short step away from a true horror.

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Ask yourself what would happen if a drug cartel, or a nation state government inimical to the United States, entered into a joint enterprise of terror with a radical Islamic cell.  The answer is apparent.

What al Qaida and its violent ilk lack, the cartels have in abundance.  Logistics.  Al Qaida, al Shabbab and others recruit radicals in America by tapping mosques for disaffected young men who are attracted by the violence, their hatred for their own country or maybe the 76 virgins.  Then, these acolytes are sent to places like Yemen or Pakistan for training – and Homeland Security has a chance to enter the equation.

Drug cartels routinely move drugs and people around the nation.  They are heavily armed, have ample explosives at their disposal and the logistical challenge of beating U.S. security is something they do with distressing success every day.  They build tunnels under the Mexican border.  More than 70 tunnels discovered in the last few years. We cannot possibly know how many people, including terrorists have moved through those tunnels.  We cannot know how many tons of drugs and weapons make the same crossing.  The cartels also have airplanes and boats and mules.

In India, two hotels in Mumbai were attacked and torched and people were killed by Islamic terrorists with rifles.  A drug cartel could arm trained Islamic radicals as simply as they can arm any smuggler who also walked through a tunnel.  Just hand them the rifles.

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The point is undeniable.  If radical Islamics ever hook up with murderous Mexican and other drug cartels in a coordinated fashion, America will have trouble with a capital T.

Would radical Islamists do such a thing?  That’s purely rhetorical.

This is the stuff that keep agents of the FBI, NSA, HSA and the rest of the alphabet panoply awake at night.

This awful possibility is the reason I wrote A Hole In The Apple, as a warning about a specter some think borders on likelihood. It is fiction but some noted experts on national security and terrorism have declared it much more than that.

Can American government leaders and law enforcers and diplomats keep such a disaster scenario from happening?  It is a wide open question.

Harley Carnes is a Murrow award winning CBS News Radio Network anchor, long time pilot, instructor, and recognized aviation expert.  His new novel, A Hole In The Apple can be ordered online as an e-book or in print at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and at www.harleycarnes.com.