The Global War Against Terrorism: The Way AheadAmbassador Francis X. Taylor, Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Address to the Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University
October 23, 2002
The recent spate of terrorist attacks, including the horrific bombing of a nightclub on the island of Bali that killed nearly 200 persons, are painful reminders that the threat of terrorism is worldwide, persistent, and lethal.
There will be other such reminders as we continue to wage the global war on terrorism and as al-Qaida attempts to show that it is still a viable terrorist organization. But we cannot let these events deflect our attention from the progress we have achieved nor the major challenges we face before final victory. To date, our campaign has truly produced unprecedented inroads against the terrorist threat, and I would like to discuss that with you today as well as what must be done to ensure eventual victory.
First, it is important to understand that the threat we face today is equally unprecedented. It is more dangerous than ever before for two primary reasons: globalization and weapons of mass destruction.
"Globalization" refers to the web of connections - including commercial, communications, or cultural -- that bind our world together. Since the end of the Cold War, the spread of open societies and new technologies has greatly accelerated the pace of globalization. As Tom Friedman reminds us in The Lexis and the Olive Tree, the Internet did not even exist as we know it before 1990. In 1990, there were 800 elemental computer systems linked on the Internet. Today, Google.com searches more than two billion websites in a matter of seconds to find information on nearly anything you can imagine.
Globalization has had other positive results -- speedy long-distance travel, satellite TV, goods from around the world conveniently delivered to our doorsteps. But terrorists like al-Qaida have twisted the benefits of our increasingly open, integrated, globalized world to give themselves new power and reach.
In this environment, small cells of terrorists have become true transnational threats -- thriving around the world without any single state sponsor or home base. For instance, al-Qaida operates in more than 90 countries -- including our own. They can support themselves through global networks of crime, complex fundraising operations, and licit and illicit charitable and business operations. As September 11 taught us all too well, we live in a world where events in a land-locked country in Central Asia can have literally life and death implications for us here in America. Globalization means that we cannot isolate ourselves even if we want to.
This leads to the second major factor that distinguishes todayís terrorism from its predecessors: weapons of mass destruction. Terrorist groups today not only have global reach, but they are actively seeking to acquire and use chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons in their campaign. The attacks of last September 11 serve as warning of even worse to come if we do not act decisively now to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction by theft, purchase, gift, or their own design and construction.
As President Bush has said, "it is precisely the coming together of these two trends -- terrorist groups who tap globalization to extend their power and reach and the possible spread of weapons of mass destruction -- that poses the preeminent security challenge of this era."
In order to face the challenge, the United States has assembled one of the greatest coalitions in history. Most nations of the world have at a bare minimum offered political support for the global campaign against terror; 122 countries offered military forces.
"Working with local Afghan forces opposed to the Taliban, coalition forces used an imaginative combination of 21st Century technology and 19th Century military tactics, teaming airpower, advanced communications, precision-guided munitions with thousands of Afghan warriers on foot -- and some on horseback -- to overwhelm the adversary."
We destroyed al-Qaidaís bases in Afghanistan, killed or captured many of its operatives, and put the rest on the run. At the same time, we and our allies have helped liberate the Afghan people from the oppressive rule of the Taliban and their al-Qaida supporters. In Afghanistan today, children can once again play soccer, music can be heard, and girls are allowed to go to school. Working with a broad international coalition, we are helping to rebuild Afghanistan so that it never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists. Challenges to final success are significant, but we remain committed to helping Afghanistan and its people to build a new future.
But military force alone will not suffice; indeed, for many phases of this long conflict, military power alone will not be the most important element of our campaign. We must also fight terror with every economic, law enforcement, diplomatic, and intelligence weapon we have in our arsenal.
We are using all these weapons in a coordinated, comprehensive campaign against the terrorist menace. Success will not come in one dramatic strike. Instead, it will come through the patient accumulation of many operations around the world whose effect will be cumulative until we break the back of terrorist organizations like al-Qaida.
We have enjoyed resounding diplomatic success in various multilateral forums, including NATO and the OAS, both of which invoked collective self-defense clauses in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Other forums like the EU, G-8, ASEAN, and the OAU have adopted helpful resolutions in support of the coalition and taken substantive steps to enhance information-sharing and tighten border security.
Law enforcement and intelligence exchanges among nations have grown exponentially in the past year. As a result, we now count approximately 2,700 al-Qaida suspects who have been detained in over 90 countries. That is an impressive global dragnet. Information provided by many of these detainees has yielded a wealth of useful and actionable intelligence that has allowed the United States and our allies to interdict cells, prevent additional attacks, and save lives.
Entire al-Qaida cells have been wrapped up in nations such as Singapore and Italy, among others. In all these cells, deadly attacks on U.S. interests or our allies were being planned.
Here in the United States, we have also disrupted al-Qaida cells. Earlier this month, Attorney General Ashcroft called October 4 "a defining day in Americaís war against terrorism." On that day, the United States:
Another al-Qaida cell was uncovered and its members arrested in Lackawanna, New York this past summer.
The war being waged on the financial front is also showing impressive results. So far, over 160 countries have joined us in blocking $116 million in terrorist assets. More than 215 terrorist groups and entities have been designated under the presidentís executive order that freezes U.S.-based assets.
Countries around the world have submitted reports to the United Nations on the actions they have taken to block terrorist finances, as required under UNSCR 1373, which calls on all nations to keep their financial systems free of terrorist funds.
The Financial Action Task Force -- a 29-nation group promoting policies to combat money-laundering -- adopted strict new standards to deny terrorists access to the world financial system.
The European Union has worked closely with the United States to ensure that nearly every terrorist individual or group designated by our government is also designated by the EU. The Netherlands recently took effective action to seize the financial assets of the New Peopleís Army terrorist group in the Philippines. In August, Italy joined the United States in submitting to the UN the names of 25 individuals and companies linked to al-Qaida so that their assets could be frozen worldwide.
The G-8 nations have committed themselves to a range of measures aimed at seizing terrorist assets. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group -- APEC -- has adopted an ambitious anti-terrorist finance action plan. The United States recently joined with Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and China in including the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement on the UNís list of organizations affiliated with al-Qaida.
As a result of all these efforts, it is much harder today for terrorists to raise and move money. Many who formerly provided financial support for terrorism seem to have backed away. Some facilitators have been captured and arrested. The international banking system is no longer a system that terrorists can safely use.
It is important to bear in mind, however, that we didnít assemble this coalition for its own sake, but as a means to identify, disrupt, and destroy international terrorist organizations that can harm the United States, its friends, and its interests.
I have focused on our many accomplishments-diplomatic, military, law enforcement, and economic. As significant as those have been, however, it is important not to think that victory is on the horizon. Far from it. Indeed the success of this campaign will hinge on two factors: sustained international political will and effective capacity building.
First, weíve got to sustain and enhance the political will of states to fight terrorism. The secret of maintaining a coalition is demonstrating daily to its members that the fight is not over and that sustained effort is clearly in their long-term interests. My meetings with government officials in every region of the world have convinced me that we have made tremendous progress on that score.
Second, we have got to bolster the capacity of all states to fight terrorism.
Despite our unmatched power, we recognize that the United States will not be able to win without the help of others. This is a global fight that requires a global system to defeat it. Simply put, the United States cannot investigate every lead, arrest every suspect, gather and analyze all the intelligence, effectively sanction every sponsor of terrorism, prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, or find and fight every terrorist cell. President Bush has stressed from the beginning, "The defeat of terror requires an international coalition of unprecedented scope and cooperation." So our effort must also be truly international.
Although many states have moved forward, some are still hampered
Our goal is to assist governments to become full and self-sustaining partners in the fight against terrorism.
Around the world, we are working to build up other nationsí forces so that they can take the fight to the terrorists from the streets of Sanaa in Yemen to Pankisi Gorge in Georgia, from the island of Basilan in the Philippines to the jungles of Colombia.
A number of powerful tools are at the disposal of governments that want to improve their CT capabilities. Some of these are available through the USG; others are a product of the international community. These include:
The President, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense together have been direct with the American people regarding the duration of the war against terror. Five words: "as long as it takes." Years, perhaps decades. But the seriousness of the threat to America, our friends and interests demands nothing less.
This is a war of many fronts and many different types of successes -- some seen, some unseen. This is a war where tracking complex financial transactions can have more impact on our enemy than an artillery barrage. This is a war where effective diplomacy and police work can thwart terrorist attacks more effectively and at less cost than a precision air strike. This is a war where diligent collection and sharing of intelligence will produce results as far-reaching as a major military operation.
With so many activities going on around the world -- so many news stories from so many different countries -- it is easy to lose track of the bigger picture. But stepping back from the details of every separate development, youíll see that our strategy will focus our energies on four global fronts simultaneously:
We will defeat terrorist groups. We will identify and target the terrorists, disrupt their operations, dismember their organizations, put their members on the run, and then, as President Bush has said, bring them to justice -- or justice to them.
We will deny terrorists the support, safe haven, and sponsorship they need to survive and thrive. We will forge coalitions among other countries that are both willing and able to join in this fight. We will work together to ensure that our actions are coordinated and share the burdens appropriately. When governments are weak but willing -- where they need assistance in combating terrorism within their own borders -- we stand ready to help build their own capabilities to defeat the terrorist scourge. Our assistance covers the gamut from seminars in how to write, implement, and enforce anti-money laundering laws to specialized counterterrorism training programs. And when we confront countries that continue to actively sponsor terrorism, we will isolate them and take steps to compel them to stop their support.
We will diminish the underlying conditions that allow terrorism to take root and flourish. Poverty and oppression are not the causes of terrorism. Nor are ethnic strife and disputes between countries. But poverty, oppression, ethnic strife, and regional instability all breed the sorts of grievances that extremists can then exploit for their nefarious ends. We will, therefore, continue our diplomatic efforts and target foreign assistance to address these underlying conditions and thereby deny terrorists the fertile soil they need to plant their poisonous seeds.
Our enemies are smart. Terrorists have learned from our successes and are changing their tactics accordingly. It is unlikely, for instance, that our efforts to freeze assets will continue to yield the sort of results that we have achieved to date.
Too often in the past, with the fading of memories of a terrible terrorist attack, the focus on permanent improvements in cooperation has faded as well. We cannot let that happen again. But we are now entering a phase where a lot of unglamorous and unpublicized work needs to be done to build the basic institutions needed to lock in and expand the sort of international cooperation we have seen since September 11.
We will face the terrorist challenge for the foreseeable future. But we cannot shut ourselves off from the world. America has always been a free, open, welcoming, and dynamic society -- and that has helped make us such a powerful force for good in the world. The ultimate challenge, therefore, is for us to confront the terrorist threat without undermining the basic principles that have made our country unique and great.
Released on October 23, 2002