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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism > Releases > Remarks > 2006

U.S.-German Counterterrorism Efforts

Ambassador Henry A. Crumpton, Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Remarks to German Ambassadors
German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Berlin, Germany
September 6, 2006

Good afternoon, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen. I am grateful to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government of Germany for this opportunity to participate in this important conference. I am honored to speak with you today.

On behalf of the Secretary of State and the U.S. Government, I extend our gratitude for your counterterrorism efforts, for your partnership in this struggle. I also offer our congratulations. In the last month, German authorities have tracked down suspects intent on blowing up trains, killing innocents, and spreading terror. Germany has contributed, in many ways, to Afghanistan where ISAF troops are securing the country and NATO forces are combating the Taliban. German intelligence, military, law enforcement, finance, and diplomatic officials play critical roles elsewhere: Lebanon, Iran, the Horn of Africa, and, of course, Europe. Germany will soon assume the Presidency of the EU and the G-8. We all will need your vision and leadership, especially in this time of great global advancement and, also, great global challenge.

Germany, like the U.S. and others, continues to define an evolving enemy, to map the shifting global terrain, and to develop better strategies. I look forward to this panel. I need to learn your concerns, your perspectives, and your recommendations so our countries can continue to forge complementary, indeed interdependent strategies in counterterrorism. We have made great progress, such as the U.S.-German Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, ratified this July by the U.S. Senate. The U.S.-German counterterrorism conference, helped advance our collective thinking and action. This must continue.

Strategic Context

As our bilateral ties deepen, indeed as the global community of nations becomes more interdependent, our collective strength grows. The overwhelming power of globalization is transforming our lives. Progress can be measured in unprecedented free-market economic growth (East Asia), monumental advances in science and technology (Internet), and the rapid development of liberal institutions and democracy (Eastern Europe and Latin America). This progress can also be noted in the absence of large nation-on-nation conflict. The U.S. National Intelligence Council’s "Global Trends 2020" report states that large-scale wars are much less likely; however, other forms of conflict will persist. Those who reject global political and economic modernity and the legal and moral obligations required to participate in the community of nations, do not have the means to fight a conventional war. Therefore they resort to asymmetric means of conflict, and often this includes terrorism.

As an example, we do not see large al Qaeda armies. Rather, we increasingly encounter al Qaeda and their allies operating in small teams or even individuals. From an operational perspective, these are "micro-actors." When combined with sophisticated tradecraft and modern technology, aimed at soft civilian targets, these are "micro-actors with macro-impact." These types of enemy forces, operating on a global battlefield, seeking to destroy civilian infrastructure and innocent citizens, are changing the nature of warfare. They are not only attacking the U.S., Europe, and our Middle Eastern partners, but the growing global community. My colleague Mr. de Vries has correctly noted that terrorism has "changed the global agenda."

But is this war? Many of my partners oppose this terminology. Five years ago, 3,000 people in my homeland died at the hands of this merciless enemy. From a U.S. perspective, this was an act of war, but what kind of war?

In our view, shared by Georgetown Professor Bruce Hoffman and others, al Qaeda and its affiliates share many of the characteristics of a globalized insurgency. And, these terrorist groups may be folded into a larger threat complex that contributes to this struggle, this insurgency. Al Qaeda and allies employ a range of tactics and methodologies, of which terrorism is only one. Other terrorist groups with different agendas, such as Hezbollah, nevertheless share some of the same insurgent-like characteristics.

First, they collect intelligence. Al Qaeda deploys operatives to case targets. Al Qaeda and allies also recruit home-grown individuals and groups to commit espionage and treason. Al Qaeda adroitly exploits the internet to collect information on a variety of targets. Hezbollah, trained by the Iranian intelligence services, are especially adept at penetrating organizations and using commercial activities to collect intelligence. Therefore, our broader counter-terrorism efforts must include a strong counter-intelligence and security dimension. Surveillance systems and data bases are important, but building trusted networks among civil society where the local policeman is a confidant and a friend is even more effective.

Second, these adversaries engage in subversion. According to the U.S. military definition, subversives seek "to undermine the military, economic, psychological, or political strength or moral of a regime" and they reject the rule of law and the democratic process. We see this in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries. We, however, should not limit our concern to regimes, but also to communities that are selected for subversion. This, of course, includes Muslim communities in Europe, North America, and elsewhere. Al Qaeda plays on the fears of the isolated and discontented groups within these communities. Yet, these communities are not the source of subversion, but rather the target of subversion. Subversive forces aim at the moral authority in these communities; they seek to undermine and replace business leaders, scholars and clergy. We can find such examples in the UK, the Netherlands, France, and Denmark. Our best approach, therefore, is to strengthen these communities, weave them into the larger fabric of our society, offer them greater benefits for fuller participation in the political and economic process. We cannot counter subversion without offering tangible incentives, without building trust.

Third, propaganda is a critical part of this global insurgency. TV, radio, books, sermons, academic lessons, and the internet are all vehicles for this information struggle. There is obvious overlap between generating broader popular support through propaganda, building subversive networks, and the ultimate acts of terrorism. But while there are overlaps, there are also differences. We must understand the differences, and make these distinctions when crafting our operations and our policies. We cannot allow our fear or an undisciplined intellect to conflate the threat. In fact, we must allow our fear or an undisciplined intellect to conflate the threat. In fact, we must be very specific in our calibrated application of power. We must also orchestrate all the instruments of statecraft, and know when and where and how to exercise statecraft. Like in any successful counterinsurgency campaign, the non-military aspects are paramount. Armed force can buy us space and time, but not the enduring, constructive solutions required.

Fourth, when and where possible, like in Afghanistan and Iraq, enemy forces engage in open warfare. Moreover, al Qaeda seeks to foment broader ethnic violence to create an environment that affords them greater room for maneuver. Terrorist forces thrive where the rule of law is weak and where ethnic conflict is rampant. Here, we must work with local partners, not only to defeat al Qaeda and affiliates, but to develop an enduring peaceful civil society where economic opportunity and democracy can grow.

Fifth, the act of terrorism itself can be a characteristic of an insurgency. In this highly interdependent media-rich global environment, such acts of murder can have more impact than ever.

If these parallels with an insurgency are valid, what are the best counter-insurgency objectives? At the strategic level, there are three: the nullification of enemy leadership; the denial of safe-haven; and the amelioration of a specific social, economic, political conditions the enemy exploits. Leaders are global actors who provide vision, inspiration, resources and guidance to networks around the world. Safe havens provide secure base for extremist action, include physical, cyber, and the ideological arenas. These safe-havens may also be "micro-havens" in a rural valley, an urban neighborhood, or even a single apartment building. And by local conditions, I am referring to local grievances, communal conflicts and societal structures that provide fertile soil in which extremism flourishes. We must address all of three of these strategic objectives.

Our effort is structured at many 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 principal is unified statecraft, working through trusted networks of allies and partners. Just yesterday President Bush, in the revised National Counterterrorism Strategy, stressed the need to address the terrorism conflict and the development of economic and political systems. We must not only deny al Qaeda safe-havens, we must fill these voids with liberal institutions, economic opportunities, and eventually democracies.

The success of our strategy depends entirely on the success of our partnerships. The ultimate answer, like in the Cold War, is about collective security, enduring institutions, economic opportunities, democracy, and the most valuable currency of all, trust.


Germany is one of our closest partners in this effort. Your commitment to combating terrorism has meant that, since September 11, 2001, German authorities have arrested, charged and convicted dozens of terrorist suspects. We are well connected: information exchange at the Ministerial and official working level take place on a regular basis. To help assure the safety of those playing and attending the World Cup, the U.S. and Germany shared information like never before, and we have experienced concrete results on issues ranging from extradition to judicial proceedings, to disruption of terrorist plots.

Fortunately, as we work with you and other European partners, we begin with a major advantage. Decades of close transatlantic collaboration have created powerful institutions, where the impulse for close cooperation is deep-rooted in NATO, the EU, the OSCE, and the G-8, among others. These bodies serve in different ways to help address this challenge. Both the G-8 and the EU are cooperative mechanisms that do not rely on the military organs of power. By bringing together political, legal, and economic measures, these organizations institutionalize the habits of trust and cooperation that need to underpin our common effort against our adversary.

Germany has been a key ally in this area. Through your contributions in Afghanistan of over $700 million in the past 5 years, and your continuing commitment to police training, education, health care, energy, and providing clean water and effective sewage systems, you are making a critical impact in the fight against terrorism. Your commitment of nearly 3,000 troops to Afghanistan and maritime forces off the coast of Lebanon are signs of your global commitment.

Despite our past difference over Iraq, we share a common interest in bring stability to that troubled country, and Germany has contributed through its debt forgiveness, civil reconstruction assistance, vocational training, and training of Iraqi police. Iraq poses special challenges, including the political intrusions of Iran, the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism. We see this in Lebanon, also.

Conclusion: Leadership from the Field

Al Qaeda and affiliates have exploited the disaffected and carved out save havens among them. We know that the attacks of September 11 emanated from safe havens in Afghanistan, with support from cells as close to us as Hamburg and other European cities. Safe havens serve as recruiting grounds, training grounds, and centers of command and control.

As stated in UNSCR 1373, with legally binding Chapter 7 authority, all member states have an obligation to deny terrorist safe haven. The U.S. and Germany have leadership responsibilities to help other in this effort, not only to deny a patch of turf or a site on the internet, but to replace these areas that spawn hate and violence with trust and civil liberties.

Thank you.

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