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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism > Releases > Remarks > 2004

9/11 Commission Report Recommendation: Denying Sanctuary to Terrorists

Ambassador Cofer Black, Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Testimony Before the House International Relations Committee, Subcommittee on International Terrorism
Los Angeles, CA
August 6, 2004

(As prepared for delivery)

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission on denying sanctuary to terrorists, as outlined in Chapter 12 of the 9/11 Commission’s report, entitled "What to Do? A Global Strategy."

Following the September 11 attacks, the Administration developed the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, which creates the policy framework for coordinated actions to prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, its citizens, its interests, and its friends around the world. This National Strategy will ultimately create an international environment inhospitable to terrorists and all those who support them. We have implemented this strategy to act simultaneously on four fronts:

  • Defeat terrorist organizations of global reach by attacking their sanctuaries, leadership, finances, and command, control and communications;

  • Deny further sponsorship, support, and sanctuary to terrorists by cooperating with other states to take action against these international threats; 

  • Diminish the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit by enlisting the international community to focus its efforts and resources on the areas most at risk; and

  • Defend the United States, its citizens, and interests at home and abroad.

Today’s hearing contributes to the essential national debate on how we might improve the sustained, steadfast, and systematic application of all key elements of national power -- diplomatic, financial, law enforcement, intelligence, and military -- in the ongoing task of defending against future acts of terrorism. I welcome the opportunity to speak to one of the specific fronts mentioned earlier, the denial of terrorist safe haven around the world.

The 9/11 Commission identified six regions of concern as current or future terrorist safe havens. I will briefly address our actions in these and other regions to deny terrorists refuge, time, and opportunity to plan further attacks against the targets they seek to destroy.

Pakistan

Pakistan continues to be one of the United States’ most important partners in the Global War on Terrorism. Following the September 11 attacks, the Musharraf government responded positively to the Administration’s clear warning that nations were "either with us or against us" in the War on Terror, and actively worked to apprehend al Qaida and Taliban operatives. To date, hundreds of al-Qaida or Taliban remnants have been successfully apprehended with the cooperation of Pakistani authorities.

Among some of the great successes in the GWOT was the apprehension of Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and Walid Bin Attash, a prime suspect in the attack on the USS Cole in October 2002. Just last week, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani along with several family members and confederates was apprehended by Pakistani forces. Captured with him were significant documents and computer files with details of al-Qaida planning against American targets. As a result, we now know a great deal more about the command and control operations of al-Qaida as well as there specific targets.

Since the fall of 2003, the Government of Pakistan (GOP) has stepped up its counterterrorism (CT) activities, most notably in the mountainous Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In early October 2003, the GOP warned tribal leaders in South Waziristan that those who failed to stop fellow tribesmen from harboring foreigners would have their property seized and face arrest. As of March 2004, over 70 individuals have been arrested. The GOP resumed operations in June, which are continuing to this day, despite taking casualties. Due to its success, the GOP has expanded this campaign to North Waziristan.

In parallel with military action, Pakistan has enhanced its legal, political, and public relations efforts against al-Qaida and the Taliban. In November 2003, the GOP deported eleven Jemaah Islamiyah members from Pakistan, and in December of last year, extradited Gun Gun Rusamn Gunnawan, brother of Indonesian al-Qaida leader Hambali, to Indonesia. Pakistan also handed over Pacha Khan Zadran, renegade Afghan warlord, to Afghan authorities last month. As of March 2004, the GOP has listed and offered rewards for over 70 terrorists.

U.S.-Pakistan joint counterterrorism efforts have been extensive. The U.S. Government has initiated significant cooperative programs that are increasing GOP CT capabilities and building important ties between the U.S. and Pakistan CT communities. These programs include long-term capacity-building efforts in border security, criminal investigations, and counterterrorism finance. The U.S. also participates, with Pakistan and Afghanistan, on the recently-formed Tripartite Commission, a problem-solving forum for discussing border and security-related issues. This mechanism allows for better coordination between the three nations and has significantly improved relations in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region identified by the 9/11 Commission.

Afghanistan

The removal of the Taliban regime from Afghanistan stripped al-Qaida of its primary sanctuary and support, and shut down long-standing terrorist training camps. Our ongoing work in Afghanistan continues to root-out the remnants of al-Qaida. With the loss of Afghanistan and its terrorism infrastructure there, al-Qaida has also been separated from facilities central to its improvised chemical and biological weapons and poisons development programs.

Al-Qaida has been a top-down organization with strong central leadership control over almost all aspects of its operations. Our ongoing operations against al-Qaida have served to isolate the leadership, and sever or complicate communications links with operatives scattered around the globe. Unable to find easy sanctuary in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the al-Qaida leadership must now devote much more time to evading capture or worse.

The U.S. Government is working closely with Japan and the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, which jointly lead the nationwide disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of militias in Afghanistan. To date, the Afghanistan New Beginnings Program has helped demobilize nearly 12,000 militia forces. The U.S. Government is working with the Afghan government, the UN, and Japan to enhance DDR efforts, including cantonment of heavy weapons nationwide. Current plans call for demobilization and disarmament of all militias by June 2005.

The USG continues to support security sector reform in Afghanistan by training and equipping the Afghan National Army. Currently over 10,000 ANA forces are deployed to different provinces in support of central government efforts to stabilize the provinces and Coalition efforts in Operation Enduring Freedom. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in coordination with the Afghan government, is supporting the development of Afghan national institutions at the national, provincial, and district levels. These include road building projects, schools, clinics, hospitals, government ministries, and local courthouses. These reconstruction efforts pay an added benefit as we seek to eliminate terrorist sanctuary in Afghanistan.

Arabian Peninsula

The U.S. Government is working closely with its partners on the Arabian Peninsula to ensure that the area cannot be used as a safe haven or base of operations for terrorist activities. Overall, USG bilateral counterterrorism cooperation with the Arabian Peninsula has improved greatly over the past several years; all of these states have striven to become active partners in the Global War on Terrorism. The stakes are high, as al-Qaida and other terrorist operatives threaten these governments, as well as U.S. citizens and facilities in the region. We are engaged with the governments on the peninsula to bolster their counterterrorism capacities and support their efforts to combat terror. This includes support for border security, law enforcement training, extensive intelligence support, training and advice to combat terrorist financing, and in the case of Yemen, economic development support.

Yemen

We are working with Yemen to enhance our partnership in the war on terrorism. The USG restarted a Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program in 2002 to support the counterterrorism mission of the Yemeni military. FMF support has also backed the creation of a Yemeni Coast Guard, which while still modest in scope, has already begun to conduct patrols off of Yemen’s long coastline.

In 2003, improvements in Yemen’s internal security situation enabled USAID to re-establish a mission in Sanaa. Our development assistance in Yemen targets health, education and agriculture in underdeveloped governorates in an effort to strengthen and extend the central government’s authority in remote tribal areas historically sympathetic to terrorists. We have been working with Yemen since 2001 to implement a terrorist watch-listing capability and to date have installed computerized systems at two dozen Yemeni ports of entry. The Yemeni government is also working with us to enhance their border security and export control measures.

Saudi Arabia

Since the May 2003 attacks in Riyadh, the Saudi government (SAG) has arrested more than 600 terrorist suspects, and has conducted more than 60 raids throughout the country, yielding tons of explosives, large caches of arms and ammunition, and valuable insights into the plans and capabilities of the Saudi al-Qaida network. The Saudi security forces have lost approximately 30 men in counterterrorism operations. The government’s two widely-publicized Most-Wanted Terrorist lists issued in 2003 included the pictures and names of a total of 39 suspects as part of a sizable rewards program. Twenty-seven of these individual have been killed, captured, or have surrendered during the past 15 months. The Saudis have also jointly designated nine branches of the al-Haramain Charitable Foundation to the UN 1267 Committee. In all, we have jointly designated more entities with Saudi Arabia than any other state.

We have had solid cooperation on intelligence sharing and case development through our Joint Task Force on Terrorist Financing. The Saudis have already instituted a variety of new laws and regulations that have the potential to fundamentally alter their banking and charity systems. These steps were validated by the February report of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) assessment of Saudi Arabia’s system of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism finance laws and regulations. These entities found the Kingdom to be in compliance or near-compliance with international standards in almost every indicator of effective instruments to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.

Horn of Africa, Somalia and Kenya

To counter the threat posed by al-Qaida in the Horn of Africa, the Department is cooperating with numerous partners, including the Department of Defense and host governments, to suppress the activities of terrorists in the region, to arrest and bring to justice those who have attacked us, and to diminish the conditions in those societies which provide terrorist sympathizers with refuge and support. Much of this latter cooperation takes place in the context of President Bush’s $100 million East Africa Counterterrorism Initiative, announced in June 2003 on the occasion of his trip to the region. Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda participate in this initiative.

In late 2002, the Defense Department established the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) which participates in counter-terrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa region. CJTF-HOA is part of the U.S. Central Command and functions in the context of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In Kenya, we are working with the Kenyan government to improve its capabilities in the areas of counterterrorism, border control, law enforcement and criminal investigation, airport and seaport security. We also welcome the efforts of the Kenyan government and its partners in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to help the numerous parties in Somalia to reconcile and form a functioning national government.

In Ethiopia and Djibouti, we have formed close partnerships to counter the threat of terrorism coming from Somalia. We believe that our successes have degraded the terrorists’ capabilities, but the threat has not yet been fully countered. We continue to act against the terrorist networks at every opportunity.

Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is a major front in the global war on terrorism, and continues to be an attractive theater of operations for regional terrorist groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). The governments in Southeast Asia have been reliable partners in the war on terrorism, but they face tremendous challenges to dealing with the terrorist threat. Indonesia, for example, has arrested over 110 suspected terrorists and convicted some 30 terrorists since the October 2002 Bali bombings; yet as a vast archipelago, effective border control is extremely difficult.

We are making progress by working with many of the governments in the region to provide assistance and prevent them from becoming terrorist sanctuaries. We have a robust Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program throughout the region, and we are seeing results. In 2003, Thai authorities captured Hambali, JI’s operation chief and Al-Qaeda point man in Southeast Asia, a significant blow to JI.

In the Philippines, we have seen success as the Philippine National Police have thwarted plots in Manila and arrested suspected members of JI and the Abu Sayyaf Group. In Indonesia, we implemented an $8 million program to train and equip a specialized counterterrorism unit within the Indonesian National Police. This unit has significantly contributed to the arrests and prosecution of members of JI, the group responsible for the Bali and Jakarta Marriott bombings. In Thailand and the Philippines we are also working to implement terrorist watch-listing capabilities at key points of entry.

Because terrorism in Southeast Asia is a regional problem, we also work in a regional context to provide CT assistance. Through centers like the Southeast Asia Regional Center for Counterterrorism in Malaysia and the U.S.-Thailand International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, we are providing counterterrorism training to law enforcement officers throughout the region. The Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation, recently opened by the Australian and Indonesian governments, provides an additional opportunity for regional training. We are also working with other capable partners to maximize the amount of assistance we can provide: through the G-8’s Counter Terrorism Action Group (CTAG) process, our embassies coordinate CT assistance programs with other embassies in each capital to ensure no duplication of effort.

By working with the governments in Southeast Asia and other regional partners, we are making consistent progress towards increasing Southeast Asian governments’ capabilities to fight terrorism and prevent the region from becoming a sanctuary for terrorists.

West Africa

In West Africa, the primary threat is not from al-Qaida against the U.S., but from a radical Islamist group, the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), which has been attempting to overthrow the government in Algeria and impose an Islamist regime. Through the Pan-Sahel Initiative, an $8.4 million program, we have sought to better equip the nations of the area by providing training and equipment to improve their border security and deny the use of their sovereign territory to terrorists and criminals. Our partner nations of Chad, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania have demonstrated their seriousness by attacking, pursuing, and degrading the GSPC’s capabilities over the last nine months.

Central and Eastern Europe

Although no European or Eurasian country provides "sanctuary" to terrorist groups, large immigrant communities in some of the cities of Western Europe are potential sources of support for extremists. Terrorist activity and the presence of terrorist support networks in Europe is a source of concern. Complicating efforts to combat this threat is the fact that some countries have legal impediments to taking firm judicial action against suspected terrorists, often stemming from asylum laws that afford loopholes, inadequate CT legislation, or standards of evidence that lack flexibility in permitting law enforcement authorities to rely on classified-source information in holding terrorist suspects. Ease of travel within Schengen visa countries could also make Western Europe attractive to terrorists. In the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, where immigrant communities are smaller, the ability to monitor and control possibly suspect activities and travel is often less than in more developed West European states.

To address these potential weaknesses, we continue to work closely with European partners to strengthen anti-terrorist legislation and to help less capable states improve their abilities to restrict terrorists’ freedom of action, block assets, and address social pathologies that contribute to terrorism’s spread. European and Eurasian countries have been reliable partners in sustaining the global coalition against terrorism. Since September 2001, many countries in the region have significantly strengthened their legal and administrative ability to take action against terrorists and their supporters, including freezing their assets.

The contributions of European countries in sharing intelligence, arresting members of terrorist cells, and interdicting terrorist financing and logistics have been vital elements in the war on terrorism.

Al-Qaida and its associated terrorist cells remain the main organizations of concern in the war on terrorism in Europe, but North African groups are also active; the Madrid bombings, which appear to have been undertaken locally by one such group, may be the harbinger of future attacks organized primarily from within the target countries. Al-Qaida and other extremist groups recruit and proselytize heavily in some major European cities: Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was recruited at a mosque in London; Mohammed Atta’s cell was centered around a mosque in Hamburg; Italian police believe some Islamic Cultural Centers and mosques in Milan serve al-Qaida recruitment centers. Networks among these groups are increasingly evident. In addition, terrorist groups opposed to the Middle East peace process (e.g. Hizballah) have active propaganda, fund raising and other support activities in Europe.

Multilateral Efforts Impacting Terrorist Sanctuary

As the 9/11 Commission’s report title, "What to Do? A Global Strategy," implies, and as President Bush has stressed on numerous occasions, fighting terrorism requires a global strategy and a global response. In addition to working bilaterally with partners, the United States’ diplomatic corps has aggressively mobilized the UN and other international organizations to take the fight against terrorism to every corner of the globe.

UN Security Council Resolution 1373, adopted with strong U.S. leadership shortly after the attacks of 9/11, assigns firm and binding obligations on all states to "deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts, or provide safe havens." We have used our permanent seat on the UN Counterterrorism Committee (CTC) to ensure that the UN fulfills its mandate to identify states that fail to meet such requirements. In this fashion, we identify and support measures to help the international community to bring assistance to those countries that are willing but unable to comply, and apply pressure to those lacking will.

In many problem sanctuary areas, lack of counterterrorism capacity is the primary impediment to rooting out terrorists. We work with other donors in the Counterterrorism Action Group (CTAG), a 2003 U.S. initiative within the G-8, to coordinate and increase CT donor activities, and to prioritize targeted assistance to high-risk countries.

International donor CT assistance provided to these countries ranges from building basic law-and-order capacity to legislative assistance to border security assistance. This effort is focused on improving the ability to identify and interdict terrorists before they can take haven, and to track down and disrupt those who have already infiltrated the country. To build on the USG’s $100 million East Africa Counterterrorism Initiative, for example, other CTAG donors joined to contribute and coordinate assistance to maximize its impact. In Thailand, CTAG is working with the Thai government to crack down on document fraud, a major problem that has enabled terrorists to seek sanctuary in the region using false documents. In the Philippines and Indonesia, CTAG donor resources are helping to provide effective, humane, and legitimate means to eliminate entrenched terrorists.

The President obtained agreement from his G-8 counterparts at the June 2004 Summit to adopt the Secure and Facilitated International Travel Initiative (SAFTI), which includes 28 action projects that will make it much harder for terrorists to use or attack or exploit transportation networks. By increasing security impediments to terrorist travel, we will further limit their ability to seek safe haven or to flee a sanctuary country. As the G-8 completes its work on these projects, it has agreed to export them to other countries using CTAG to build will and capacity to prevent terrorists from creating and maintaining sanctuaries. When the fruits of these projects are exported to international standard-setting bodies, we trust that this will help close the gaps in our international counterterrorist regimes currently exploited by terrorists seeking sanctuary.

In closing, I would like to assure the Subcommittee members and the public that multiple efforts are already underway to actively deny terrorists safe haven in the regions outlined in the 9/11 Commission report. With the support of Congress, many programs mentioned today are actively engaging this crucial recommendation, and I am confident that today’s hearing will provide additional stimulus to enhance and expand our capabilities.

Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee. I would be happy to take your questions.



Released on August 24, 2004

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