Eliminating Terrorist Sanctuaries: The Role of Security AssistanceWilliam P. Pope, Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Testimony Before the House International Relations Committee, Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation
March 10, 2005
[As prepared for delivery]
Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Sherman, Distinguished Members of the Subcommittee: thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
Mr. Chairman, as the President made clear in his speech on Tuesday, March 8, to prevent attacks on American soil, we must pursue partnership and cooperation abroad. Counterterrorism assistance efforts are the first line of defense for the protection of our homeland as well as U.S. personnel and facilities overseas. These programs are not foreign aid in the traditional humanitarian sense. They are an essential element of the vital U.S. interest in safeguarding Americans at home and abroad.
The President’s National Strategy for Combating Terrorism describes four main objectives:
Just as our views of the nature of warfare have changed to confront the threat posed by al-Qaida and its affiliates, so must our views of counterterrorism assistance evolve. A terrorist does not view an Aegis equipped missile destroyer like the U.S.S. Cole only as a deterrent. He also sees it as a target that he might hope to sink with a few hundred pounds of explosives and a small boat. Conventional weapons continue to hold an important place in our national arsenal, just as providing modern weapons systems to allies through foreign military financing and other forms of traditional security assistance continues to be in our national interest. But the rise of asymmetric warfare, to borrow a term used by military strategists in discussing terrorist operations, has required a fundamental adjustment in our nation’s security assistance strategy.
Our government must be prepared to help partner nations protect themselves, and by extension the United States, from terrorism with a wide spectrum of assistance and delivery platforms. Elements of this spectrum may include the most basic cop-to-cop training in community policing on the streets of foreign capitals, tactical training of police SWAT teams and explosive ordnance disposal experts, investigative training in arcane areas such as the encrypted cyber communications and reverse money laundering schemes known to be used by terrorist organizations, the fostering of interagency cooperation through effective joint terrorism task forces, institutional reform of ponderous and sometimes corrupt security institutions, assistance in intelligence collection and analysis, and military training and assistance at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.
Each partner nation does not need every item in our inventory of deliverables. We have to discern, through expert assessment and analysis, what a nation’s most pressing requirements are, and then we must convince its policy makers how we can best help. We must provide that assistance and training in a manner that complements the partner’s existing security infrastructure and can be sustained. It is worth noting that there will inevitably be countries with legitimate needs that we choose not to assist because, in our estimation, the potential threat emanating from or through that country to U.S. personnel or interests is low. As mentioned earlier, these programs are not need-based foreign aid in the traditional sense. They are an investment based on U.S. security interests and objectives. The challenge, of course, is to make sure that our assessment of risk is accurate and that we do not overlook tomorrow’s threat by focusing exclusively on today’s.
As Members of Congress, you are accustomed to reviewing budgets and allocating resources. Please allow me to say a few words about something that is not easily reflected in budget figures. In counterterrorism assistance, how we do things is as important as how much we have to spend. From long experience, we know that impersonal training or equipment packages cannot be simply dropped into the hands of our partners and reasonably be expected to get results. Measurable, lasting improvement in a partner nation’s capability to confront terrorist activity in or emanating from its territory usually demands customized programs, hands-on training, locally appropriate equipment, and ongoing mentoring. It requires frequent, face-to-face contact between U.S. Government personnel and the host nation’s security establishment. It requires talented, experienced trainers, who regard their students as colleagues and treat them with respect. It requires the engagement of ambassadors and the most senior members of our foreign policy establishment to encourage an institutional environment in which tactical and operational training can take root and bear fruit. And it requires that our diverse federal agencies, both military and civilian, work together to ensure that distinct initiatives are complementary and collaborative.
There is an additional benefit to the kind of hands-on training I have described that bears mention. Our nation’s commitment to sound human rights practices and conducting investigations under the rule of law is strong. Consistent exposure to former federal investigators and prosecutors from the United States helps bring the principles we teach in these areas in each of our courses into sharp relief. In the appendix to this testimony you may note one statistic of which we are most proud. Colombian anti-kidnapping units trained under the State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program have rescued over 48 hostages from kidnappers and arrested 206. These units are vetted for human rights issues and provided human rights training. Although Colombia continues to suffer one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world, this type of assistance will make sustained progress in changing this trend.
The foregoing discussion of how counterterrorism assistance should be provided applies globally, Mr. Chairman, but, given your long interest in Africa as the former chairman of the Africa subcommittee, allow me to focus on that region. I believe you were present in July 2004 when the Africa Policy Advisory Panel of the Center for International and Strategic Studies issued a report regarding counterterrorism in Africa. The authors were unambiguous: "The threat of terror to US interests in Africa is concrete, rising and discernible. The probability of another attack on Americans on African soil is high." Two programs underway on the African continent offer useful illustrations of the requirements I have described and the challenges we face.
In June 2003, the President announced the commitment of $100 million for an East Africa Counterterrorism Initiative (EACTI) to provide counterterrorism equipment, training, and assistance to six countries in the region: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. As part of this effort, EACTI provided $10 million for an intensive in-country antiterrorism training program for Kenya. This program is overseen by my office and implemented by Diplomatic Security’s Office of Antiterrorism Assistance. The Kenya program was developed from the ground up. DS/ATA experts traveled to Kenya, consulted extensively with members of the Embassy Country Team, and employed experts from other USG agencies, to ensure that Kenya’s most pressing needs were addressed. Rather than simply use a training and equipment package for the Kenyans that we have used successfully in other countries, ATA customized its plan to focus from the outset on what it perceived as the weakest link in Kenya’s capacity to combat terrorist organizations: interagency collaboration, command and control. In close coordination with Kenya’s Commissioner of National Police, Director of Public Prosecutions, and others senior Kenyan officials, ATA devised a nine-week training course that has been delivered to a hand-picked group of investigators, prosecutors, immigration officials, and counterterrorism analysts. The participants graduate tomorrow, as a matter of fact, and they will go on to comprise the core staff of a Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). Through nine weeks of training, institutional rivalries and suspicions have been broken down among the participants, and they are ready to bring their skills to bear in a concerted fashion. ATA has assisted in identifying and making ready a base from which the JTTF will operate. Each member brings to the task force the experience and resources of his or her agency, but they will now be working together across agency lines toward common counterterrorism objectives.
An experienced former U.S. investigator will be resident with the JTTF to provide ongoing assistance and advice. A British counterterrorism expert and the U.S. embassy resident legal advisor (an experienced U.S. prosecutor) will also be on hand for the long term to assist and advise. Further specialized training and equipment will be forthcoming, but it will be crafted in consultation with the Kenyan task force for their use in making arrests and prosecutions. We are moving away from a "Here you go -- good luck" approach to counterterrorism assistance to more of a "We’re all in this together -- what shall we do next" approach. The difference may appear subtle from here in Washington, but it has enormous implications for partner nation ownership, sustainability, and success on the ground.
Another element of the Kenya program is worth noting. The Commissioner of National Police is eager to improve the KNP’s maritime interdiction capability, particularly in the waters along the northern coast, where traditional cargo dhows transit the Somali border on a daily basis. We know that some of these vessels carry contraband and persons of interest from a counterterrorism perspective, but there is currently a very limited capability to interdict and inspect them. A U.S. Navy group has been working with the Kenyan Navy in this area for some months. In planning the maritime element of its program, ATA has drawn extensively on the Navy group’s expertise. They have provided ATA with valuable information about navigational issues, fueling stations, launch ramps, and so forth. Some of their experts assisted ATA in the evaluation of a locally available and serviceable boat/engine package that is well suited to those waters and the interdiction mission.
The Kenyan Navy, which is conducting maritime interdiction training with the assistance of U.S. Navy personnel for its own sailors, has agreed to enroll maritime police officers into the next two eight-week courses it delivers. Police and Navy personnel will deploy together in joint coastal operations. Since police have much wider arrest authority than navy personnel under Kenyan law, this will be mutually beneficial to both Kenyan services. In addition, they will provide information to the Nairobi-based Joint Terrorism Task Force for analysis. The JTTF will in turn provide leads, derived from investigative intelligence, to the maritime unit.
The Kenya program represents several elements of the criteria that I mentioned earlier: a customized approach based on the strengths and weaknesses of the partner nation; resident instructors, advisors, and mentors who gain the trust and respect of their Kenyan colleagues; and various USG elements -- State, DOD, Justice -- working together to combine resources and expertise that ensures the most effective assistance possible.
Sahel and North Africa
The Sahel region is an area of potential vulnerability due to its vast, low density geography, nomadic populations, and porous borders. International and indigenous terrorist groups have been able to travel across the region, smuggle contraband, including weapons, and recruit new members from indigenous populations. Islamist terrorist groups pose a terrorist threat to a region that is home to more than 100 million Muslims.
The most active group in the Sahel is the al-Qaida-affiliated Algerian Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC). In 2003, a faction of this group led by Abderezzak al-Para held 32 European hostages in southern Algeria and northern Mali.
We seek to facilitate cooperation among governments in the region (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Senegal, and Nigeria) and strengthen their capacity to combat terrorist organizations.
The Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI) is a good example of collaborative, interagency program efforts that I have described as essential for success. The Pan Sahel Initiative is an $8.4 million program to provide CT training that focused on the nations of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, and Chad. In 2003-04, our Defense Department colleagues in the European Command (EUCOM) provided trainers from the U.S. Special Forces to train with the security forces of these governments. Countries in the region are active and willing partners in counterterrorism efforts. In 2004, forces from Niger and Chad engaged GSPC elements in their respective countries. In the case of Chad, its military forces killed or captured 43 operatives in a clash in northern Chad in March 2004, driving GSPC second-in-command Amari Saifi (a.k.a. Abderrezak al-Para) into the hands of a Chadian rebel group, which eventually led to al-Para being turned over to Algerian custody in October.
To complement EUCOM’s efforts with military units in the Sahel countries, we directed the Antiterrorism Assistance program to work with the civilian law enforcement agencies of Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, as well. ATA has delivered approximately $6.6 million in training and assistance to these countries in Fiscal Years 2004 and 2005.
The Administration is considering a follow-on effort that would continue the success of PSI, building upon that program, to improve the military and political capability of regional governments to meet the threats they face in the Sahel. The working title for this effort is the Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative, or TSCTI. The TSCTI would seek to further strengthen regional CT capabilities, enhance and institutionalize cooperation among the region’s security forces, promote democratic governance and human rights, and ultimately benefit our worldwide CT goals and bilateral relationships. The TSCTI concept would look beyond simply the provision of training and equipment for counterterrorism units, but also would consider development assistance, expanded public diplomacy campaigns and other elements as part of an overall CT strategy. TSCTI is under review within the Administration, and we are working to integrate the concept into agency budget and program planning processes. We look forward to working with you further on our efforts to improve security in the Sahel.
The foregoing descriptions of counterterrorism assistance efforts in Africa by no means reflect the extent of our CT operations. I offer them, first, because I am aware of the Chairman’s extensive interest in the region, and, second, because I believe that we are now in the stage of our nation’s overall counterterrorism strategy that we must look beyond the immediate priority regions of the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia. Nonetheless, our efforts in Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Colombia and elsewhere are extensive and ongoing. I have provided an appendix to my written testimony that describes in some detail the priorities and progress of ATA’s counterterrorism assistance efforts in these countries and elsewhere.
Terrorist Interdiction Program and Counterterrorism Finance
The mission to eliminate terrorist presence or sanctuaries globally extends beyond helping partner nations to investigate and interdict terrorists. We also must constrict their mobility and access to financial support. Through the Terrorist Interdiction Program, we provide select nations with the computer systems, training and support to establish effective watchlisting capabilities, and thereby help identify suspect persons attempting to pass through air, land or sea ports of entry. Since 2001, twenty nations have been provided this capability, and they have been successful in interdicting insurgents in Iraq, hundreds of individuals traveling on stolen passports in Pakistan, as well as wanted criminals, narcotics smugglers, and human traffickers world-wide. The Terrorist Interdiction Program has, in several countries, become the cornerstone of counterterrorism cooperation with the United States.
Combating terrorist financing remains a critical component of the global war on terrorism, as terrorist groups need funds to recruit, train, equip, and operate. Depriving them of funding provides us a better opportunity to identify, disrupt, prosecute, and defeat terrorists. One way the USG combats terrorist financing is through foreign assistance capacity building programs administered by the State Department.
The interagency Terrorist Finance Working Group (TFWG), chaired by State, coordinates, develops, and delivers training and technical assistance to priority countries to bolster their anti-money laundering/counterterrorist financing regimes. U.S. assistance programs address the legal drafting, financial investigations, bank regulatory supervision, financial intelligence units, and judicial/prosecutorial aspects of combating terrorist financing. In addition, these programs have begun to address the threat of terrorist financing through non-bank conduits, such as alternative remittance systems, cash couriers, and the abuse of charities. To date, 17 priority countries deemed most vulnerable to terrorist financing have been formally assessed, and training and technical assistance have been provided to countries, bilaterally and regionally, in the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. In addition, U.S. anti-money laundering programs underway in regions traditionally plagued by narco-trafficking and organized crime networks have complemented counterterrorism finance efforts by reinforcing host government institutions' ability to follow the money trail.
Counterterrorism finance training programs have already paid dividends in the case of Indonesia. With U.S. assistance, Indonesia adopted amendments to its anti-money laundering law to meet international standards to avoid FATF sanctions, established a fully operational financial intelligence unit, and successfully prosecuted the main perpetrators of the October 2002 Bali bombing attacks. Just last month, Indonesia was removed from the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering’s NCCT blacklist.
In addition to working bilaterally, the United States has aggressively mobilized the United Nations and other international organizations to fulfill their counterterrorism obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1373. In UNSCR 1373, States agreed among other things 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 is closely monitoring member states’ implementation of their obligations.
We also work with other donor nations in the Counterterrorism Action Group (CTAG), a G8-initiated forum for CT donors, to coordinate and increase CT assistance to high-risk countries. International donor assistance provided to these countries includes basic law-and-order capacity building, legislative assistance, and border security assistance.
Allow me to conclude, Mr. Chairman, with three summary points.
First, we are running in a marathon, not a sprint. The starter gun went off in 1993 with the first attack on the World Trade Center. Osama Bin Laden declared war on the United States and all Americans in 1996. Two U.S. embassies in Africa were attacked in 1998. The USS Cole was attacked in 2000. But it was not until the morning of September 11, 2001, that the majority of our citizens truly realized that, like it or not, we were at war. The rapid overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan was gratifying, but Osama Bin Laden remains at large, and, more important, his extremist vision continues to stir followers and sympathizers around the world to violence against us. We cannot go it alone, and the role of security assistance in all its many forms is absolutely crucial to this struggle and to the security of our homeland. There is no question that Americans are safer if we can assist our international partners to stop terrorists overseas, before they are able to bring violence to our home shores. That assistance must be robust and sustained for its effects to be realized.
Second, we must be practical and methodical in our efforts. We are a large government with many different agencies that have important roles to play. There must be solid coordination of our engagement and assistance efforts abroad. In Washington, the Secretary of State, with assistance from my office, must continue to coordinate overseas counterterrorism assistance. In our missions overseas, the more nuanced work of ensuring collaboration among various members of the country teams is and must remain the responsibility of the Chief of Mission. That is not to say that there will not be and should not be some overlap of responsibilities among agencies.
Finally, we must maintain a diverse and balanced portfolio of targeted countries in our assistance strategy. Al-Qaida’s strength is its proven ability to adapt and improvise. We must not focus exclusively on today’s threat areas, only to find that the quarry has moved on to less hostile environs that we have heretofore ignored.
Thank you once again for calling a hearing today on this important topic. I hope that my testimony has been helpful, and I would be delighted to answer any questions you may have.
The Antiterrorism Assistance Program
The Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance program (ATA) is an essential mechanism for providing partner countries’ civilian law enforcement and security agencies with the training, equipment, and technology needed to improve their counterterrorism capabilities.
The Secretary of State’s Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism (S/CT) formulates counterterrorism strategies, provides policy guidance to the ATA program, and identifies partner country training priorities. The Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Office of Antiterrorism (DS/ATA) implements and manages program operations and coordinates closely with other federal, state, and local agencies that assist in providing expertise, assessments, training, and facilities. This synergy is essential to the success of the program.
The ATA programs objectives are:
ATA has grown each year since its inception in 1983 and this year’s budget exceeds $110 million. In 2004, ATA sponsored 209 courses and trained approximately 4,900 students from 67 countries. Over the years, ATA has trained more than 48,000 students from 141 countries. The type of training varies with the needs of each partner nation, and courses are tailored to local conditions. Training includes, but is not limited to: crisis management and response; cyber-terrorism; dignitary protection; bomb detection; airport security; border control; kidnap intervention and hostage negotiation and rescue; response to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction; countering terrorist finance; and, interdiction of terrorist organizations. All courses emphasize law enforcement under the rule of law and sound human rights practices. All students are vetted for human rights abuses and criminal records before being accepted for training.
As terrorist networks adjust their tactics and strategies, ATA continues to adapt and refine its counterterrorism training initiatives to meet evolving threats. ATA has expanded its training platforms in order to maximize training benefits and minimize costs. While effectively conducting needs assessments and program reviews, developing curriculum, and managing training, ATA continues to coordinate and rely on the expertise of both federal and state law enforcement agencies. This synergy, along with our role to coordinate all US Government-provided civilian counterterrorism training with embassies and Chiefs of Mission, is essential to the success of our counterterrorism efforts and to the success of the ATA program.
To determine which partner countries will receive ATA training, S/CT reviews and prioritizes the threat posed by international terrorists and coordinates with ATA to develop comprehensive, in-country training programs in the most vulnerable countries.
ATA’s major program priorities are as follows:
Examples of the ATA Program’s Impact
In many countries, ATA-trained officials have played key roles in local, regional, and global counterterrorism efforts. ATA alumni have served as the lead investigators of a number of recent terrorist attacks and have utilized their training to arrest many of the perpetrators. The following are just a few examples of the overall impact of the program.
Released on March 22, 2005