U.S. Counterterrorism Policy toward South AsiaChristina Rocca, Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs
Testimony before House Committee on International Relations Subcommittees on Asia and the Pacific, and on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Human Rights
October 29, 2003
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the subcommittees: thank you for giving my colleagues and me the opportunity to talk about U.S. counterterrorism policy towards Asia and the Pacific.
You requested that we provide you some insights into our assessment of the environment for terrorism in this region, including successes and challenges. My colleagues before me have already addressed our wider counterterrorism goals in the region, so I would like to take this opportunity to share with you our views on the environment, including both political and institutional, within South Asia specifically.
Since the events of September 11, 2001, counterterrorism policy has risen to the top of our priorities worldwide. Around the world, we have worked closely with friends and allies to limit and where possible, destroy, the ability of terrorists to act against the United States and others. Within South Asia itself, since 9/11 we have helped establish a democratic government, and dismantled the repressive regime of the Taliban, in Afghanistan. We continue to support dialogue and peaceful solutions to disagreements in the region, and oppose the use of violence, whether it be generated by the Maoists in Nepal, the LTTE in Sri Lanka, or militants in Kashmir.
In the past two years there have been significant counterterrorism advances in South Asia. We are working closer than ever with, and getting enormous support from, President Musharraf and the Government of Pakistan, to capture or destroy the remaining remnants of al’Qaida or the Taliban that remain in the region. We have coordinated closely with Prime Minister Vajpayee and the Indian Government in helping them respond to the attack in 2001 on the Parliament and the bombings earlier this year in Mumbai.
Across the region we are involved in training military or police to better combat terrorists, and providing military and law enforcement personnel with the necessary resources to do the job. Our Anti-Terrorism Assistance in South Asia totaled over $37 million in FY 03. We continue to share information with these allies, building a security network, to counter the terrorist network that we are working to bring down. Together, through the UN 1267 Committee, we block the financial assets of terrorist groups and individuals, thus limiting their ability to move money and fund activities. Our tools are plentiful, and we are using all of them, as appropriate, to destroy terrorist groups.
Mr. Chairman, I would now like to take the opportunity to take you through our specific efforts and the constraints in a number of countries in this region.
Pakistan’s cooperation in counterterrorism efforts has been excellent since 9/11. Despite skeptical public opinion and bitter criticism from a coalition of opposition parties, President Musharraf has maintained Pakistan’s policy of supporting U.S. OEF operations, with practical results.
Our two nations have coordinated with intelligence, law enforcement, finance, and military authorities to successfully apprehend well over 500 suspected al’Qaida and Taliban operatives, to date, including al’Qaida operational commander Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and September 11th conspirator Ramzi bin al-Sheibh.
Pakistan ranks fourth in the world in the amount of terrorism related assets frozen, and the Government of Pakistan is working against terror groups and has recently increased their patrols, operating now in the mountainous, historically off-limits, Pakistan-Afghan border.
We continue to monitor actions taken to curb such extremist groups as Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and others. These groups pose a serious threat to Pakistan, the region and the United States. We continue to work with the Government of Pakistan on this challenge.
We look to Pakistan to do everything in its power to prevent extremist groups operating from its soil from crossing the Line of Control. The Government of Pakistan has taken many steps to curb infiltration, but we are asking it to redouble its efforts.
The United States supports all these counterterrorism efforts by providing funds for enhanced border security, including intense training, equipment, road building and logistics support.
Investing in Pakistan’s capacity to interdict terrorists has begun to pay off. Earlier this month Pakistan forces killed 8 and captured 18 suspected al’Qaida along with foreigners and local tribesmen, on the Afghan border, followed a week later by detention of 32 people suspected of collaborating with or harboring Taliban remnants. Pakistan is bearing its share of the human costs of fighting the war on terror - over a dozen of its soldiers have been killed in such operations.
India is another close ally of the United States in the global war on terrorism, and continues to support our efforts in this area. India’s also a victim of terrorism, with a tragic attack on its Parliament on December 13, 2001 and a more recent bombing in Mumbai earlier this year that killed more than 50.
We are working closely with the Government of India to help them prevent such attacks, providing them with better border security systems and training, and through better intelligence. Increasingly intensive Indo-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation reflects the closer relations that the United States seeks across the board with India.
The Maoist insurgents’ use of terrorist methods to coerce the people and overthrow the government of Nepal poses a threat to democracy and stability, and U.S. interests in the region. At the same time, tensions between the King and the political parties in Nepal have given the Maoists greater room to maneuver.
On August 27, the Maoists unilaterally withdrew from a seven-month cease-fire and peace negotiations, returning to extortion, bombings, assassinations, and forced recruitment into their military cadre. In recent weeks we have seen Maoist forces continue to attack security forces.
The United States Government is helping to address the Maoist threat by focusing our assistance programs on the root causes of the insurgency – poverty, corruption, and government inattention – and on strengthening the ability of the government to respond. We are one of many countries that together are working to improve the Royal Nepal Army through security assistance. The United States is providing 20,000 M-16 rifles to the Nepal military along with other security equipment and training. Since the U.S. began assisting the Army, the Maoists have eschewed direct attacks on Army outposts, instead favoring ambushes on Army patrols and attacks on infrastructure, civilian targets, and the Armed Police Force. The U.S. support is paying a dividend, although more help is needed.
Since December 2001, the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have kept a cease-fire and conducted several rounds of peace negotiations. The United States supports these negotiations in the hopes of creating a permanent peace and political solution to the conflict with the LTTE. Towards that end, the international community, at a donors conference co-chaired by the United States, recently pledged $4.5 billion in assistance linked to progress in the peace process.
On October 2, the USG redesignated the LTTE as an FTO, and made clear that the designation could be revoked only if the LTTE renounced terrorism and ceased all terrorist activity.
Across South Asia the United States continues to work with our allies to limit the ability of terrorist groups to work and move around. We are supporting these governments through intelligence sharing where appropriate, resources and training. We work both bilaterally and multilaterally with these governments through such organizations as the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee for terrorist financing, and fully support the involvement of regional multilateral organizations.
The response we have received from governments in the region has been exemplary. However, more still needs to be done. Taliban remnants and al’Qaida remain hidden along the challenging Pakistan-Afghan border, too often coming out to attack U.S. forces or the ANA in Afghanistan. Tensions over Kashmir continue with ongoing violence across the LOC. The LTTE and the Maoists still pursue violent means to achieve their ends. Until all these activities stop, we will not cease in our efforts.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to address this important issue. We look forward to working with Congress as we confront these challenges. The resources your provide are critical to our efforts and, as I have said, are making a difference. We would be happy to answer any questions you now have.
Released on October 29, 2003