It seems like another case of foiling what was at best a half-baked plot:
France has arrested a researcher at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) for suspected links with al-Qaeda, officials have said. […] “He was not a Cern employee and performed his research under a contract with an outside institute. His work did not bring him into contact with anything that could be used for terrorism,” it said. […] The physicist had exchanged messages over the internet with people known to be close to the organisation al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and expressed a desire to carry out attacks, but had “not got to the stage of carrying out material acts of preparation”, one said.
When we’re debating Afghanistan, I think it’s important to keep in mind that to undertake a terrorist attack in France you have to be in France. To undertake a terrorist attack in the United States, you have to be in the United States. Anyone in a “safe haven” in Central Asia is, by definition, not nearly as dangerous as someone working at CERN. So in terms of short-term terrorism prevention, domestic law enforcement is always going to be the most important priority. And in the long term, the key issues relate to motivation and recruitment; decreasing the number of people who feel that it makes sense to engage in violent attacks against western targets to advance a political agenda. What happens in the “AfPak” area is important, but not really the most important thing.