U.S. Counterterrorism Policy in Asia and the PacificAmbassador Cofer Black, Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Testimony before the Subcommittees on Asia and the Pacific, and on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Human Rights, House International Relations Committee
October 29, 2003
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the subcommittees:
It is my pleasure to have this opportunity to appear before you today to discuss our counterterrorism policies and programs in Asia and the Pacific. Today's hearing is particularly timely, coming as it does on the heels of the President's recent trip to Asia, which dealt in no small part with terrorism and related issues.
The Asia-Pacific region and South Asia figure prominently in the global war on terrorism. Our efforts in the war on terrorism in Asia have been largely successful: many attacks have been thwarted, terrorist cells have been disrupted, and governments in the region have joined the fight. But much remains to be done. Sadly, the Asia-Pacific region has been the venue for the largest terrorist attack since September 11 -- the Bali bombings -- and contains one of the more active and dangerous international terrorist groups in the world, the al-Qaida-related Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). Gaps in counterterrorism (CT) regimes throughout the region give rise to concerns about the ability of al-Qaida, JI, or other groups to hide, plan new operations, raise money, and recruit members. Such groups present a direct threat to the United States and to the countries of the region in which they operate.
This type of cross-border danger requires a coordinated international response. Direct law enforcement and intelligence actions carried out by the U.S. or in cooperation with our partners are aimed at preempting the activities of terrorists presenting an immediate threat. In the mid-term, our approach is to directly interdict, or build local capacity to prevent, the movement of terrorist money, manpower, and materiel through banks, borders, and brokers. We also support the development of open, prosperous, and democratic societies that will not readily produce individuals who would be attracted to the rhetoric of extremists or recruitment by terrorists.
Diplomacy is a vital and ever-present component of our approach. We believe that only through cooperation and coordination with like-minded nations can we close the gaps that international terrorists exploit. Building upon a network of already-close relationships in the region, we work closely with allies and partners in Asia to share information and intelligence about terrorist suspects on the move to catch them before they strike. We coordinate counterterrorism training and assistance with other countries that provide it, in order to deconflict training programs and make them complementary.
In addition to coordinating with others, we are also encouraging other nations to increase their contributions, and share information that helps foreign governments understand the threat that terrorism poses to their national security and their economies.
Using tools of diplomacy, we assert the United States' adherence to the principles of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1373, other UN resolutions, the 12 UN conventions on counterterrorism, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations on CT financing, and other international CT standards, and we advocate these standards and best practices for achieving them to all of our foreign interlocutors.
We also take advantage of international fora such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), on issues ranging from the global threat of terrorism and the importance of implementing best practices to improve CT regimes, to specific measures on terrorist financing and border security.
At the October 19-21 APEC meetings, the President forged agreements to work with APEC nations to dismantle transnational terrorist groups, eliminate the danger of weapons of mass destruction, establish a trade and security initiative within the Asian Development Bank to enhance port security and combat terrorist financing, and to strengthen efforts to confront the threat of Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS). APEC also endorsed support for a U.S.-Australian agreement to explore the development of a computerized regional alert system to prevent terrorist and criminal movements.
Assistance to Other Countries
We train, assist and equip those who are working to increase their technical CT skills across all fronts -- law enforcement and the judiciary, regulators and legislators, CT financing and anti-money laundering units, and militaries. We work within the U.S. Government as well to ensure that programs and policies are coordinated. For instance, my office, as well as others in the Department, work closely with the U.S. Pacific Command on a number of CT programs. These include creating cooperative arrangements with the newly created Malaysian regional CT center, the Department of Defense's CT Fellowship Program, the various elements of the multi-agency and multinational Regional Maritime Security Program, and a series of bilateral CT exercises. Five such exercises have been held to date, with Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Thailand. These and other programs are designed to expand effective cooperation with other governments as well as enhance and encourage institution and CT capacity building.
In Indonesia, we are training and equipping a national police CT unit, and are coordinating with Australia and other nations on the provision of additional assistance to the police. Graduates of that training are already assigned to active terrorism investigations. The Indonesian CT unit is being trained using Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA), our primary program for providing foreign security forces with training across a variety of investigative, managerial, and tactical skills. We work closely with Indonesia's recently established Financial Intelligence Unit as they begin to implement procedures to screen the banking system for terrorist financing and money laundering.
In Malaysia, the U.S. was the first country to provide training under the auspices of the Southeast Asia Regional Center for Counter-Terrorism (SEARCCT) in Kuala Lumpur August 25-29, 2003. Fifteen South Asian and Southeast Asian nations received training in financial analysis for their Financial Intelligence Units or equivalents.
The Philippines has been a close partner in the war on terrorism. The U.S. assisted the Philippines in amending their anti-money laundering legislation to meet international standards. The U.S. has also offered to support the peace process between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippines government. The U.S. has installed the Terrorist Interdiction Program (TIP) in the Philippines with equipment, software and training to enhance their capacity to secure their borders, and in Cambodia as well.
In South Asia, also a critical front in the global war on terrorism, there are 7 designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations operating, and several other groups that are on the list of "Other Terrorist Organizations" found in the State Department's annual report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism".
Al-Qaida, the Taliban, and other organizations hostile to the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan continue to target members of the coalition working to rebuild that country. Several Pakistani terrorist groups are suspected of using Pakistani territory as a base for their operations in and around Kashmir, poisoning relations between India and Pakistan. Non-Islamic terrorist groups in Nepal and Sri Lanka threaten those governments.
We have used the ATA program during the past year to train an indigenous presidential protective unit for the Afghan government. ATA has also recently completed training of a dedicated civilian investigative unit in Pakistan that will significantly increase that country's capacity to investigate terrorist groups and their activities. Other ATA training conducted throughout the region is building stronger partnership in the war on terrorism between the U.S., Pakistan, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and many other countries in South and Southeast Asia.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have both received the Terrorist Interdiction Program to help achieve effective border watchlisting capabilities. TIP systems for Nepal and Bangladesh are likewise under development.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Committees, I have highlighted some -- but not all -- of the dangers in South Asia and the Asia-Pacific regions. I have noted many of the diplomatic steps and training programs we have launched to address immediate threats, and build regional capacity to reduce future threats, but this is by no means a comprehensive discussion of the threat, nor of efforts to counter them. There are many other efforts, large and small underway.
These efforts have produced results. Al-Qaida and the Taliban have been uprooted from Afghanistan. September 11 plotters Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al Shibh were among the more than 550 suspected al-Qaida and Taliban suspects taken into custody since 9/11. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is believed to be a key planner of the 9/11 attacks. His apprehension has been hailed as the most significant removal from the playing field of an al-Qa’ida figure since those attacks, and he is also implicated in the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Counterterrorism finance cooperation continues, and Pakistan ranks fourth worldwide in terms of terrorist assets frozen. In September, five more al-Qaida suspects were picked up in Peshawar and Karachi. This month Pakistani military forces conducted a raid on al-Qaida and Taliban elements in the politically sensitive tribal region that resulted in 8 killed and 12 apprehended. Clearly Pakistan is making excellent use of American CT assistance.
Hambali -- a key link between al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah -- was apprehended as a result of U.S.-Thailand cooperation. Hundreds of Jemaah Islamiyah members have been taken into custody in Southeast Asia, Australia, and Pakistan. Dozens of al-Qaida members have been apprehended in the region, and many countries that face the most serious terrorism threat have greatly enhanced the effectiveness of their CT regimes, often with direct assistance from the U.S. In Indonesia, graduates of U.S. ATA training courses were used immediately to investigate the August 5, 2003, J.W. Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta, and made rapid progress in identifying and apprehending suspects. In September, an interagency CT Finance/Anti-Money Laundering assistance team led by the State Department conducted an onsite review of Indonesia’s CT finance needs with a focus on expediting assistance for the financial aspect of the Bali bombing investigations. The trip was also successful in assisting Indonesia in drafting legislation that avoided the issuance of economic countermeasures against Indonesia by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
And yet, we need look no further than the Marriott bombing, or the bombings in Mumbai earlier this year, to know that, despite the dramatic progress that has been made, much work remains to be done. As terrorists find one nation increasingly inhospitable, they seek out new havens, or look for remaining weaknesses to exploit. They will find them. Our task remains closing the gaps in international CT regimes and systems before terrorists can find them. We must continually adapt to the emerging threat environment as terrorists try to circumvent counterterrorism measures.
Some countries can do this task alone. Some need only access to information about best practices to be able to implement changes. Others require significant assistance in order to make improvements. Our funding and resources are limited, and our commitments are global. We continue to urge our CT partners to play a larger role, because we recognize that the U.S. is not able to engage all nations to close all gaps on its own. Although our partners are responsive, the size and scope of the mission and our task is not decreasing. This is a task that requires more, not less, from the U.S. if we are to succeed.
We urge Congress to approve full funding of our budget requests to strengthen our training programs. Terrorists in Asia have proven their resilience, and many Asian nations have large and porous borders, and inadequate resources, training, and infrastructure to adequately interdict terrorist activities. This is a long-term threat, and we are committed to a long-term fight.
Mr. Chairman, Committee members, I submit that there is no better investment for scarce tax dollars than counterterrorism programs such as these. This is not the time to be cutting funding for these programs, which are designed to help defeat terrorism overseas before it comes to our borders.
The House Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill cut $24.6 million dollars --or 21% -- from the President's request for our three CT programs in the bill -- the ATA program, the Terrorist Interdiction Program and the CT engagements and Policy Workshops Program. The cuts could affect at least 11 courses and installations in Asia.
We hope you can help encourage the Conferees on the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill to approve the full funding levels requested by the President for CT programs. We need these resources to work to ensure the safety of Americans and of American interests here and abroad. We need these resources to help our CT partners defeat our common enemy before terrorism reaches our shores again.
We appreciate your support in this effort. As President Bush said, "we shall not falter, and we shall not fail." Thank you for the opportunity to discuss these issues today.
Released on October 29, 2003