U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video
 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism > Releases > Remarks > 2006

Remarks at Transnational Terrorism Conference

Henry A. Crumpton, Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Remarks at the Royal United Services Institute Conference on Transnational Terrorism
London, England
January 16, 2006

Lord Hurd, M. Thenard, Mr. Oakden, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen -

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this important conference, as part of such a distinguished panel, representing some of our key global partners. I am grateful to the Royal United Services Institute and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their sponsorship of this conference.

I'd also like to thank you, on behalf of the U.S. Government, for your efforts to fight terrorism. While I'm primarily here to listen and learn, I also wish to offer a U.S. perspective.

I'm going to structure my remarks under three headings. First, the strategic context. Secondly, a U.S. approach. And, finally, the collective, interdependent challenge of the future.

Strategic Context
Globalization and the related spread of free market economies, liberal values and institutions, and a developing global cultural network has provided unprecedented advancements in so many areas. This global interdependence, in the long run, will make us all more secure. Already, according to the U.S. National Intelligence Council's "Project 2020" study, the chance of major nation state conflict has reached a low level. Our global-linked economies continue to grow. Advances in international science are racing forward.

Yet, this growing interdependence, inexorably linked to technology, poses risks because our infrastructure is increasingly more fragile. Our global interdependence makes us stronger, but also in some aspects, more vulnerable. There is also a backlash from those who view globalization as a threat to traditional culture and their vested interests. Some discontented, illiberal non-state actors perceive themselves under attack and, therefore, resort to offensive action. This is the case with Al Qaeda and affiliated organizations.

Yet, these enemies face a strategic environment featuring nation states with an overwhelming dominance in conventional military forces. This includes but is not limited to the U.S. It's no surprise, then, that our actual and potential enemies have taken note of our conventional superiority and acted to dislocate it. State actors, such as North Korea and Iran, seek irregular means to engage their foes. Iran uses proxies such as Hizballah. Non-state actors like Al Qaeda have also developed asymmetric approaches that allow them to side-step conventional military power. They embrace terror as a tactic, but on such a level as to provide them strategic impact. Toward that end, they seek to acquire capabilities that can pose catastrophic threats, such as WMD, disruptive technologies, or a combination of these measures.

Perhaps the most fundamental shift rests in the enemy's downsizing. We will not see large Al Qaeda armies. Rather, we will increasingly face enemy forces in small teams or even individuals. From an operational perspective, these are "micro-targets with macro-impact" operating in the global exchange of people, data, and ideas. The enemy, their tradecraft, their tactics, their weapons, and their battlefield, our battlefield - all evolve at the pace of globalization itself. We are facing the future of war today. The ongoing debate, sometimes disagreement, among allies reflects this new reality, this new way of war. How do we most effectively engage this type of enemy?

A U.S. Perspective
In general terms, we believe that Al Qaeda and affiliated forces exhibit many of the characteristics of a globalized insurgency. This insurgency aims to overthrow the existing world order and replace it with a neo-fundamentalist, reactionary, authoritarian, transnational state. They collect intelligence, engage in denial and deception, use subversion, launch propaganda campaigns, engage in sabotage, and, of course, embrace terror as a defining tactic. Terror, of course, not only serves as a means of destruction, but also garners them visibility and provides them identity. Deny Al Qaeda the tactic of terrorism, what is left? This threat will be sustained over a period of decades, not years, and will require stamina, and a global response. We are in a long war, a global war.

We see the enemy as a "threat complex" comprising three elements: leaders, safe havens and underlying conditions. Leaders are global actors who provide vision, inspiration, resources and guidance to networks around the world. Safe havens are often regional, and provide a secure base for extremist action, and include:

Physical safe haven - failed or failing states, under-governed areas and state sponsors who provide physical safe areas for terrorists to train and organize.

Cyber-safe havens - electro-magnetic and Internet-based means for enemy communication, recruitment, training, planning, resource transfer and intelligence collection, and

Ideological safe havens - belief systems, ideas and cultural norms that enhance the enemy's freedom of action.

Underlying conditions are local groups, grievances, communal conflicts and societal structures that provide fertile soil in which extremism flourishes. They represent the conditions that terrorists exploit.

To counter this multi-layered threat, our strategy is to apply all elements of national power in conjunction with partners, allies and like-minded non-state actors. We seek to target the three key strategic elements - leaders, safe havens, and underlying conditions - by building trusted networks that undermine, marginalize and isolate the enemy, and empower legitimate alternatives to extremism. We're determined to prevent attacks before they occur. Toward that end, we have reorganized our government to give the U.S. a broad and coordinated homeland defense.

Second, we're determined to deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes and to their terrorist allies who would use them without hesitation.

Third, we're determined to deny radical groups the support and save haven of outlaw regimes.

Fourth, we're determined to deny the militants control of any nation, which they would use as a home base and a launching pad for terror.

The fifth element of our strategy in the war on terror is to deny the militants future recruits by replacing hatred and resentment with democracy and hope across the broader Middle East.

We seek to act globally, over an extended time-frame, to isolate the threat, defeat the isolated threat, and prevent its re-emergence.

To execute this strategy, we are taking unified action against key strategic targets using diplomacy, economic power, military power, the rule of law, and cooperation with non-state actors. Our effort is structured at four levels - a global campaign to counter Al Qaeda and associated networks, a series of regional campaigns to target and eliminate terrorist safe havens, and numerous national security and development assistance operations, designed to build liberal institutions, support the rule of law and enhance our partners' capacity to resist the threat - all focused on unique local conditions. The underlying principle is unified statecraft, working by, with or through partners at every level (both bilaterally and multilaterally), whenever possible.

Over time, our global and regional operations will reduce the enemy's capacity to harm us and our partners, while local security and development assistance will build our partners' capacity. Once partner capacity exceeds threat capacity, the need for close U.S. engagement and support will diminish, terrorist movements will fracture and implode, and the threat will be reduced to proportions that our partners can manage for themselves over the long term.

The way forward
Let me leave you with some observations on what this implies for the future:

The first implication is the need for us to build trusted networks of allies and partners - state, non-state, and multilateral - who support the rule of law and oppose the use of terrorism to resolve grievances. All human beings belong to networks of trust, based on family, societal, religious, cultural and economic links. So just attempting to destroy terrorist networks is ultimately pointless unless we can replace them with trusted networks, a web of liberal institutions throughout the world.

This implies that our most important task in the war on terrorism is actually not the "destructive" task of eradicating enemy networks, but the "constructive" task of building legitimacy, good governance, trust and the rule of law. This creates friendly networks that can wean populations away from terrorism - and means that our focus must also be on the constructive dimension of the war, knowing that this will flush the terrorists into the open where they can be destroyed.

In turn, this implies that our operations in the war need to be partner-led wherever possible - initiatives need to be developed in close conjunction with local partners, to meet their needs and address the real conditions on the ground, rather than address conditions only as they are perceived to be in Washington, London, or Paris. Ultimately our role is to enable, support, and facilitate - to stand ready for help, rather than to spearhead the effort.

A second implication is that multilateral regional cooperation is critically important. Most of the terrorists' safe havens sit astride national borders, in places like the Sulu Sea or the Northwest Frontier. Denying these safe havens demands a region-wide response as a matter of priority.

Further, safe havens in cyber-space and the ability to transfer funds, materiel and people depend on existing regional underground networks - such as those that exist for purposes of narcotics trafficking, piracy or people smuggling. Closing these safe havens, again, demands concerted action at the global and regional levels: we must work together.

A final implication is the need for inter-agency operations. The major wars of the 20th century taught armed forces the need for joint operations rather than "stove-piped" army, navy, or air operations. Our military dominance largely derives from our mastery of such joint, highly integrated multi-dimensional operations on the conventional battlefield. But insurgencies and terrorist activity over the same period taught us an equally critical lesson - the need for inter-agency operations that unify all elements of national power into a coherent whole.

The need for inter-agency operations goes way beyond mere coordination or cooperation. It demands that we plan, conduct and structure operations - from the very outset - as part of an intimately connected whole-of-government approach. We are certainly not there yet, but we have made progress in meeting this goal.

To summarize: within a broader context, the struggle against Al Qaeda reflects a new asymmetric dynamic in the international security environment. This means irregular warfare marked by an enemy employing terrorist tactics, and seeking weapons of mass destruction, aimed at our global society's soft targets.

Our approach to combat terrorism is to apply unified statecraft against enemy leadership, safe havens, and underlying conditions. Our effort is structured at four levels: global, regional, national, and local.

Dealing with this threat demands that we build trusted networks capable of withstanding these threats, through partner led operations that address real-world conditions. It means an emphasis on regional cooperation, to address enemy safe-haven and cross-border flows of people, money, ideas, and technology. It means that inter-agency operations, to orchestrate all the instruments of statecraft, integrated into partner-led efforts, will define the path to victory.

Ladies and gentlemen, that completes my formal remarks. Thank you.

  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.