Thank you General Anwar for the kind introduction, and thank you distinguished colleagues for allowing me to address you today as we begin this important conference. I am especially grateful to our Indonesian hosts here in Makassar for their gracious hospitality, and I appreciate the continued efforts by all members of the Expert’s Working Group on counterterrorism to develop and maintain a productive agenda from which we can all learn and improve our CT capabilities. The United States is proud to be a partner to this group; as President Obama has often said we are indeed a Pacific Nation. We share a rich history of defense and security cooperation with our partners in the region, and we are well aware of the strategic importance a prosperous and stable Asia-Pacific has across the globe. Although we are brought together for this meeting to discuss approaches and capabilities to counter transnational terrorism; which we recognize as a common enemy that threatens peaceful societies in all regions; our long term mutual interests go far beyond this immediate challenge.
Although this Experts Working Group is only in its first year, ASEAN has long been concerned with terrorism and transnational crime. Going back to 1997, the ASEAN Ministers of Interior and Home Affairs recognized the growing threat of terrorism in South Asia, and issued the Declaration on Transnational Crime to promote effective coordination among Law Ministers, Attorneys-General, Chiefs of National Police, Finance Ministers, Directors-General of Immigration and Directors-General of Customs. Clearly this declaration foresaw the need for a “whole of government” approach to countering transnational terrorism long before the world was faced with the scourge of al Qaida.
You recognized then, as you do now, that successful counter terrorism requires responses at the regional and international level, and that overcoming terrorism requires more than military and law enforcement solutions. The 4th ADMM- plus built on the success of these efforts by deciding to establish the CT group to promote and enhance cooperation among defense and armed forces within the framework of the ADMM-Plus, and I am honored to help be a part of this important dialogue through this conference.
My topic today is the current US view on counterterrorism, our approach to defeating al Qaida, our strategy for institutionalizing our CT capabilities, and our vision for expanded cooperation among domestic and international defense, security, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies to protect and defend against future terrorist threats. Although I am here in my capacity as a senior US defense policy official, my views on this topic are shaped by my experiences as a former US special operator. My career spanned the drawdown of these capabilities in the late 1970s, responses to terrorism in the 80s, the build up during Reagan administration, the employment of CT and Special Operations forces in Panama, the first Gulf war, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and of course the operations we have conducted since the attacks on the US of September 11, 2001
Without a doubt, 9/11 changed our view of terrorism. The world had never experienced the level of terrorist violence inflicted upon so many innocent victims than on that fateful day. Despite all the warnings, including a previous al Qaida attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, and the bombing of two US Embassies in Africa in 1998, the United States was unprepared to defend against and respond to the attacks on New York and Washington DC. As the US and the rest of the world reacted to this new threat, so did ASEAN, which adopted a Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism at the 7th ASEAN Summit just two months after 9/11. Since that time, working together, we have all learned valuable lessons in combating terrorism, developed and improved our collective capabilities to disrupt terrorist attacks, and committed ourselves to dismantling and defeating al Qaida and its adherents.
Despite our satisfaction that we are now well on our way to defeating al Qaida, on reflection we recognize how unprepared we were 10 years ago. The American experience fighting terrorists and insurgents is dotted with failed hostage rescue attempts and protracted counterinsurgency campaigns with sometimes disappointing results. Although we are a nation borne of insurgency, our government and our Defense industry has always done a better job of planning and preparing for conventional war than it has for the unconventional, or irregular, or low intensity variety. In fact, in the aftermath of our inability to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980, it was our legislature, not our defense establishment, that created our military Special Operations Command that today oversees our campaign to defeat al Qaida.
We have come a long way since then, and we find ourselves today with what we believe is the most precise and effective counterterrorism capability that has ever been assembled, albeit at a high cost in human life and national treasure. We’ve invested significantly in a range of new capabilities; transformed our defense intelligence enterprise, and rebalanced our military to be more adaptable to Counterinsurgency. We’ve also greatly increased our “soft power” capabilities for military support to humanitarian assistance, stability operations, information operations, and civic action. Most importantly, we have formed new organizations at the national, strategic, and operational levels to promote integration between military and civilian agencies. Although we make every effort to improve our use of new technologies, it is the human dimension – the collaborative interagency process – that is truly our “secret weapon” in this fight. I look forward to more discussion on the role of Defense in CT in our session later today.
Reflecting on 10 years of war, and with an unwavering sense of purpose, the United States recently published a new National Counterterrorism Strategy. In it, we confirm our commitment to continue to wage war on al Qaida and its affiliates until they are strategically defeated through a coordinated campaign that leverages all instruments of national power. The strategy affirms that we will above all uphold our values as a nation, and work closely with international partners to dismantle and defeat al Qaida, deny extremist safe havens by building security capabilities, and promote cooperation across governments and within regions.
Although our strategy has as its dominant focus on the protection of the US homeland, we recognize the interconnected nature of this conflict and its effect on many regions of the world. The 9/11 attacks proved that simply guarding one’s borders is no longer a viable counterterrorism strategy. Global commerce and worldwide communications systems permit adversaries to move people and ideology in ways never before possible. Al Qaida’s strength as a truly transnational syndicate was developed in the 1990’s largely due to Bin Laden’s recognition that the era of globalization was his opportunity to broadcast violent extremism far beyond his sanctuary in Afghanistan. In a large measure his immediate interests were focused in this region. In fact, the 2002 Bali bombings remain the second most spectacular al Qaida attack outside Afghanistan and Pakistan after the World Trade Center.
Today, in South Asia, the United States and the International coalition remain intensely focused on eliminating the al-Qa‘ida safe haven in Pakistan while also degrading the Taliban and building up Afghan Security Forces—so that Afghanistan can never again be a safe haven for al-Qa‘ida.
From its base of operations in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), al-Qa‘ida continues to pose a persistent and evolving threat to the US Homeland and interests as well as to Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Europe, and other targets of opportunity.
Sustained pressure against al-Qa‘ida in Pakistan—in particular since 2008—has forced the group to undergo the most significant turnover in its command structure since 2001 and put al Qa’ida on a path to defeat. Despite these losses, al-Qa‘ida is adapting. It is using its safehaven to continue attack planning as well as to produce propaganda; communicate with and convey guidance to affiliates and operational cells in the region and abroad; request logistical and financial support; and provide training and indoctrination to new operatives including some from the United States and other Western countries.
Even if we achieve the ultimate defeat of al-Qa‘ida in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater, an expanded and diverse network of terrorist groups determined to focus beyond their local environments is likely to persist. We’re working together to rid Afghanistan from al Qaida’s destructive influences.
Our collective effort to defeat al Qaida is quite impressive and unprecedented – the international coalition is comprised of 42 nations, and includes security forces from Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. These forces provide much needed expertise in battlefield surveillance, trauma medicine, engineering, and special forces, operating in some of the toughest districts in Afghanistan. The enduring strength of the ISAF coalition demonstrates the power of multilateral cooperation and showcases the unique capabilities each nation brings to the fight.
Elsewhere in South Asia, Lashkar-e Tayyiba (LT)—the organization responsible for the rampage in Mumbai in 2008 that killed over 100 people,—constitutes a formidable terrorist threat to Indian, US, and other regional interests. US CT efforts against LT will continue to focus on ensuring that the group lacks the capability to conduct or support operations detrimental to US interests or regional stability, including escalating tensions between Pakistan and India. Much of our effort against LT will continue to center on coordinating with, enabling, and improving the will and capabilities of partner nations—including in South Asia, Europe, and the Persian Gulf—to counter the group and its terrorist activities.
In Southeast Asia, our CT efforts have improved markedly in recent years as countries in the region have enjoyed significant CT success and put effective pressure on the region’s most lethal terrorist organizations. The US strategy for this region is embedded within an overall strategy of enhanced US economic and political engagement in Southeast Asia that fosters peace, prosperity, and democracy in the region. We stand ready to assist in continuing to build the capacity of governments in the region that consistently demonstrate their commitment against al Qaida and its affiliates in the region. We have developed a robust network of bilateral CT relationships across the region, including Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and Australia. Each of these countries as well as other regional players have a role to play in ensuring that the threat from terrorism does not undergo a resurgence in the years ahead and that al Qaida’s senior leadership is compelled to look elsewhere for resources, support, and safe haven.
The US Pacific Command leads our defense engagements in the region through a continuous series of bilateral and multilateral training events, major exercises, and capacity building exchanges featuring strong relationships among our Special Operations forces and their ASEAN nation counterparts. We’ve conducted 38 Special Operations training exchanges with 7 ASEAN partners this past year, and have plans for even more in 2012. PACOM works continuously in the region through the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines, and the Joint Interagency Task Force – West, and oversees a robust Theater Security Cooperation Program that spans the spectrum of military and security operations. There are several excellent examples of how CT cooperation between the US and its ASEAN partners is having an effect in Southeast Asia.
Maritime security in this region, where half the world’s oil and one-third of the world’s shipping pass through the Malacca and Singapore Straits, has been greatly enhanced through a comprehensive set of multilateral agreements that counter a range of illicit trafficking and deny terrorists freedom of movement. Since 2005, the US Department of Defense has provided $217 million in CT training and equipment to ASEAN military partners to strengthen Maritime Domain Awareness through 26 programs that help improve capabilities and capacity for surveillance radars, patrol craft, secure communications, command and control, maritime intercept, airborne surveillance, night vision, and numerous others.
Your impressive efforts are not limited to controlling the seas. Many ASEAN nations have taken decisive action against al Qaida and other extremists that threaten regional stability. Jemah Islamiya, once the most dominant al Qaida affiliate, has been decimated through the diligent combination of military, paramilitary, intelligence, and law enforcement cooperation by Indonesia and its ASEAN partners. The capture of Bali bomber Umar Patek, who is now facing justice for murdering 200 civilians, and the successful operation last year that killed his associate Dulmatin, serve powerful notice to the world that you stand tall and resolute against terrorism.
Likewise, the Abu Sayaaf group has been fractured into rogue elements grasping for relevance in remote areas of the Philippines, and under intense pressure by Philippine security forces. Working as a team, you have closed the seams that al Qaida once exploited, and your strong multilateralism has signaled to all that you are willing to stand shoulder to shoulder to combat terrorism in this proud region.
Our counterterrorism success does not and cannot rely on use of military force alone. For this reason, the US and its ASEAN partners are engaged in a long term collaboration to build and enhance law enforcement capabilities to deal with terrorist threats.
Working closely with ASEAN partners in some cases since the mid 1980’s, the US Department of State has administered a comprehensive Antiterrorism Assistance program in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines to build CT law enforcement capacity, including bomb detection, post blast investigation, investigative procedures, discreet surveillance, cellular communications, site exploitation, and crisis management. Our International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, augmented by other donor nations including Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the Netherlands provides tailored assistance to help ASEAN members institutionalize these capabilities into a sustainable and comprehensive national counterterrorism framework.
Despite our success, we know that we face many challenges ahead. Dismantling and defeating terrorist networks is only one aspect of a more complicated endeavor to eliminate the threat. We’re fighting an adaptive enemy that has promoted mobilization to violence among individuals who may have no external connections to terrorist groups. These “lone wolf” actors, who are often radicalized and trained over the internet, pose even greater challenges to our law enforcement agencies. Swarm attacks, active shooters, and suicide tactics have increasingly become their preferred tactic – they recognize our difficulty in detecting and disrupting these attacks.
Beyond operations to defeat terrorists, we must endeavor to address their motivations. As this group knows, however, extremist ideology is pervasive, and much harder to contest. Disaffected populations and unresolved grievances are known sources of violent extremism, and often serve as entry points for transnational bad actors to target and radicalize groups and individuals. We must stay vigilant to deter and dissuade prospective terrorists, while at the same time continuing to implement programs that promote democratic ideals and foster inclusiveness. We all know that terrorism cannot be eliminated through law enforcement and police actions alone. Deep-seated resentments arising from social inequality, poverty and lack of opportunities serve as fuel to terrorism.
As ASEAN members, you will be challenged as you balance aggressive transregional counterterrorism actions against domestic political demands for judicial reform. Addressing terrorism conspiracy legislation to provide law enforcement with a competitive advantage over sophisticated terrorist foes is a sensitive matter for all democratic societies, who must above all avoid compromising their national ideals while at the same time preventing terrorists from exploiting the very freedoms they seek to destroy.
The United States has wrestled with this problem, and does not profess to have the perfect solution. We recognize that this is a different kind of war that requires a greater degree of agility and cooperation among law enforcement, military, and intelligence agencies.
In his recent remarks on the death of Usama bin Laden, ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan wisely noted that the killing of one terrorist does not mean the end of terrorism. He cited that the long term solution relies upon successfully addressing the underlying causes of violent extremism, many of which he noted are present in Southeast Asia.
In a call for continued cooperation among member nations, and perhaps with a bit of warning, he said “The road to ending violent extremism, terrorism and global cultural discords might very well run through the ASEAN region”.
I’m confident that this group has the proper focus and commitment to stay the course and find solutions to these very difficult problems. I look forward to hearing your views over the next two days, and assure you that the United States will stand with you in this fight. Thank you for your kind attention to these important matters, and I look forward to your questions.