How U.S. Diplomacy Supports the Campaign Against International TerrorismAmbassador Cofer Black, Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Remarks to the Council on Foreign Affairs
October 30, 2003
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, the President adopted a broad strategy to fight back. The initial response in Afghanistan properly was military, but diplomatic efforts were already underway around the world. Today, the international community is fighting the global terrorist threat on five fronts: diplomatic, financial, intelligence, law enforcement, and military. All of these fronts are important, but, in my view, diplomacy is the pre-requisite for success in the other areas and is one of our most potent offensive weapons in the war on terrorism.
Diplomacy is the instrument of power that builds political will and strengthens international cooperation. Through diplomatic exchanges, we promote counterterrorism cooperation with friendly nations that serve our mutual interests. We enhance the capabilities of our allies. Diplomacy helps us take the war to the terrorists and to cut off the resources they depend upon to survive.
The Departments of Justice, Treasury, Homeland Security, Defense, CIA, and many other federal agencies have critical responsibilities in this regard. However, as the lead foreign affairs agency, the Department of State -- through my office -- serves as the coordinator and overall clearinghouse for counterterrorism activities conducted overseas by the United States Government.
We are methodically taking the battle against terrorism to the international front lines. Strong embassies and active diplomacy are an important part of the effort. Our ambassadors and the staff members of our embassies and consulates, drawn not just from State but also from other federal agencies, are serving us well.
I have much admiration and respect for the men and women who work at our missions overseas. In the face of especially grave threats today, they continue to serve with great professionalism and bravery. Indeed, they are the backbone to our overseas counterterrorism efforts. It is this “diplomatic readiness,” to use Secretary Powell’s phrase, that is vital to our ability to fight terrorism.
Our embassies are our direct voices to the governments of other nations. They facilitate the disruption of terrorist networks and the apprehension of terrorist suspects. Ambassadors, and other members of country teams, including representatives from other agencies, are all instrumental in developing and maintaining good working relations with the host government in pursuing our counterterrorism objectives.
It is an important function of my office and staff to support this front line effort. Since assuming the Coordinator's job at the start of this year, I have traveled to Russia, China, Japan, the U.K., Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Tri-Border region of South America, Colombia, Austria, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Greece, and Turkey. I can say unequivocally that our Chiefs of Mission and their country teams are invaluable resources. They are both leading and supporting our efforts to promote our counterterrorism agenda in their respective host countries and regions.
Fighting terrorism militarily is a vital part of the larger global effort. Two years ago, in response to the al-Qa’ida attacks of 9/11, Operation Enduring Freedom was launched in Afghanistan. It was the largest military coalition ever assembled -- 90 nations strong, nearly half the countries of the world. The bulk of Afghan territory was liberated from Taliban control in a matter of weeks, and the Afghan people are now free from the Taliban’s oppression.
Iraq is now the central front in the war on terrorism. The regime of Saddam Hussein possessed and used weapons of mass destruction, sponsored terrorist groups, paid families of attackers in Israel, and inflicted terror on the Iraqi people. Today, Iraq is no longer a breeding ground for terror. We’ve captured or killed 43 of the 55 most wanted former Iraqi leaders who are pictured in that famous deck of cards. Despite the death toll of American and coalition soldiers, the war in Iraq has been one of the swiftest and most humane military campaigns in history.
Saddam’s holdouts and foreign terrorists are trying frantically to undermine Iraq’s progress and to throw the country into chaos. But coalition forces in Iraq are actively pursuing the terrorists and the thugs that Secretary Powell calls “dead enders.”
We are committed to expanding international cooperation in the reconstruction and security of Iraq and are working closely with Iraqi leaders as they prepare to draft a constitution, establish institutions of a civil society, and move toward free elections. I strongly believe that our work now in Iraq is essential to America’s own security.
Along with Treasury and others, the Department of State is at the forefront of the financial war on terrorism. Secretary Powell has designated 36 Foreign Terrorist Organizations, thus freezing their assets, blocking travel by their members and supporters, and criminalizing material support for them. He has designated 60-plus entities and individuals under Executive Order 13224, freezing their assets and banning U.S. persons from having any transactions with them. There are now more than 300 names covered under that Executive Order, and more persons and groups are added frequently. Secretary Powell has also identified 48 groups under the USA PATRIOT Act -- the “Terrorist Exclusion List” -- keeping their members and supporters out of the United States. And both directly and through our embassies, we are working with governments around the world to attack the mechanisms by which terrorists raise, move, and use money. Each U.S. Embassy has identified a Terrorism Finance Coordination Officer to lead the effort to work with the host governments to detect, disrupt, and deter terrorist financing.
We also help other countries improve their ability to counter terrorism financing. For example, earlier this year, my staff joined an interagency team in Manila to successfully assist the Government of the Philippines with enacting financial controls vital to denying terrorists access to funding and in so doing brought the Philippines into compliance with international anti-money laundering and terrorist financing standards.
My office sponsored the first training course of the newly created Southeast Asian Regional Center for Counterterrorism in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in August. Anti-money laundering and counterterrorism finance experts from Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and the United States conducted the “Basic Analysis and Suspicious Transaction Reporting” course for 80 participants from 15 Southeast and South Asian countries. This course was aimed at developing financial intelligence analysts' ability to detect money laundering and terrorist financing cases.
My colleagues and Washington-based interagency teams, joining our embassy country teams, are helping many other front-line states to evaluate their financial systems, identify vulnerabilities, and develop counterterrorism finance training programs.
Intelligence, Law Enforcement
The gathering of intelligence about al-Qa’ida's infrastructure in Afghanistan helped to dismantle or scatter much of its membership and organization. It is not the organization that it was previously; its capabilities have been sharply degraded. Al-Qa’ida is under stress. Its leaders worry more about capture than initiating multiple large scale attacks. Indeed, many members have been caught or killed. We have been making good progress in undermining the group.
Information gained from captured enemy combatants and imprisoned terrorists is being exploited effectively around the world. The arrest in February of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the third ranking al-Qaida official, was a major coup in terms of degrading al-Qaida operational capabilities and in the intelligence acquired.
In August, police in Thailand captured another key terrorist, Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali. He is believed to be the top representative in Southeast Asia of the al-Qaida terrorist network. He was operations chief of Jemaah Islamiyah, a terrorist group committed to establishing an extremist Muslim state in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, parts of Thailand, and the Philippines. Under Hambali, Jemaah Islamiyah committed many terrorist crimes, including the October 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, that killed some 200 people from more than a dozen countries.
The expansion of intelligence sharing and cooperation among nations since 9/11 is preventing attacks, saving lives, and exposing the hiding places of terrorists. An impressive global dragnet has tightened around al-Qaida. Since 9/11 more than 3,400 al-Qaida operatives or associates have been detained in over 100 countries, largely as a result of cooperation among law enforcement agencies.
Entire cells have been wrapped up in nations such as Singapore, Italy, and here in the United States in Portland, Oregon and Lackawanna, New York. In all these cells, deadly attacks on U.S. interests or our allies were being planned.
The Department of State is assisting in these fields by delivering training to foreign law enforcement agencies to assist them in strengthening their capacity to deter terrorism. Training in areas such as hostage negotiation, bomb detection, airport security, border security, criminal prosecutions, and anti-corruption efforts helps to create an environment in which it is increasingly difficult for terrorist groups to operate.
In recent years, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Antiterrorism Assistance program has developed new courses for countering terrorism financing and defeating cyber-terrorism. It also has provided a series of seven seminars to help other countries strengthen their counterterrorism legislation. The Department works with other agencies and U.S. embassy officers in developing the training package to meet the recipient country’s needs. For the coming year, we are scheduling 180 courses for 56 countries.
The ultimate success of this global counterterrorism campaign will hinge in large part on two factors: sustained international political will and effective capacity building.
First, we must sustain and enhance the political will of states to fight terrorism. The secret of maintaining a coalition is underscoring to its members every day that the fight is not over and that sustained effort is clearly in their long-term interests. My meetings with officials from many other governments have convinced me that we have made tremendous progress on that score.
Second, we need to enhance the capacity of all states to fight terrorism. The United States cannot alone 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.
The President's “National Strategy for Combatting Terrorism” involves the State Department's leadership at many levels.
To defeat the threat of terrorism we must make use of every tool in our arsenal, particularly diplomacy. Diplomacy makes it possible for us to effectively use all the other instruments -- military power, law enforcement, intelligence, and vigorous efforts to cut off terrorist financing.
The war against international terrorism is a global enterprise of uncertain duration. The United States will help nations that need our assistance in combating terror and will hold to account nations that sponsor the use of terror and harbor its perpetrators.
We will cooperate with other nations to detect, deter, and destroy terrorist organizations at every turn. The gravest danger our nation faces is combination of radicalism and technology. Our enemies have openly declared that they are seeking weapons of mass murder, and evidence indicates that they are doing so with determination.
Therefore we will act against such threats before they are fully formed. We are mindful that no nation can build a safer world alone. Alliances and multilateral institutions can multiply the strength of freedom loving nations. Building the will to strengthen and effectively use international alliances and institutions to overcome the scourge of terrorism is what we do at the Department of State.
Released on December 8, 2003