Indicators "All Very Positive," Cofer Black Says
anti-terror chief says war not over, duration uncertain
-- The global war against terrorism is not over, and its
duration is uncertain, according to the State Department's
coordinator for counterterrorism. Nonetheless, "[t]he edge
and the initiative rests with those that are after al-Qaeda
and hunting them," Ambassador Cofer Black says.
Black, who was
sworn in as counterterrorism coordinator in December 2002, said
the current "indices of counterterrorism are all very positive," and
credited that to law enforcement, diplomatic and security service
personnel around the world.
He told Washington
File Staff Writer David Denny in a recent interview that several
factors support his positive assessment. For instance, he said
the downward trend in the number of terrorist attacks that first
appeared in 2002 has continued so far this year. The 2002 edition
of the U.S. publication "Patterns of Global Terrorism," released
earlier this year, stated that there were 199 terrorist attacks
worldwide, down significantly from the previous year. Also, of
those 199 attacks, 77 occurred in the United States.
So far this
year, Black said, in the period for the first six months of 2003,
the numbers are 105 attacks worldwide, including 38 in the United
States -- both numbers very consistent with the 2002 figures.
could perhaps be the result of fewer terrorists available to
carry them out. Black noted that "more than two-thirds of the
al-Qaeda leadership of the 9/11 period have either been arrested
or detained or no longer represent a threat to innocent men,
women and children." He added that in excess of 3,000 al-Qaeda
members and supporters have been arrested and detained.
as well, efforts to dry up terrorists' funds -- or as Black termed
it, "drain the swamp" -- have met with notable success. He said
that over 172 countries have issued orders to freeze terrorist
assets totaling $136 million. Further, over 280 groups or entities
have been designated as terrorist under U.S. Executive Order
13324, which freezes their assets, he said. Around the world,
685 terrorist-identified accounts have been blocked, including
106 in the United States, Black said. "Over 180 countries have
introduced new, terrorist-related legislation," he said, "and
84 have established financial intelligence units."
As a specific
example, Black noted that the Group of 8 industrialized nations
(G-8), meeting in Evian, France earlier this year, established
a counterterrorism action group (CTAG) of donor nations "to expand
and coordinate training and assistance for countries with the
will, but not the skill, to combat terrorism."
U.S. efforts to focus on the apparent nexus between narcotrafficking
and terrorism in South America's Triborder area of Brazil, Argentina
and Paraguay, Black said his first trip as counterterrorism coordinator
was to meet with officials of those three countries about this
we identified the relationship between the Triborder and funding
for terrorism. We seek to cut those links," Black said. "We also
seek to have a counterterrorist presence in place, to respond
to any future movement of terrorists into the region. Were they
to come, we -- the countries of the region and the United States
-- will be waiting for them," he said.
is the transcript of Black's interview:
conventional standards, the global war on terrorism is going
well. Al-Qaeda leaders have been captured or killed, homeland
security has been strengthened and no major attacks have occurred
on U.S. soil in the two years since the terrorist attacks on
9/11. Where then, do we stand and what has been accomplished?
United States, under the leadership of President Bush, since
9/11 has developed a highly effective, focused counterterrorist
program that's predicated upon close contact and collaboration
with our international partners. We have very strong relationships
with law enforcement and security services and all organs of
statecraft that contribute to the global war on terrorism. This
partnership has been highly effective on an international basis,
to put a tremendous pressure on the terrorists, and as a result,
their ability to plan and execute attacks has been seriously
diminished. I think it is a true accomplishment of the counterterrorist
forces of the world, from an American perspective.
There have been
no attacks since 9/11 by al-Qaeda in the continental United States,
but we as Americans view this as a worldwide problem. We cooperate
with our partners to protect all the citizens of the world. And
in this process, more than two-thirds of the al-Qaeda leadership
of the 9/11 period have been either arrested or detained or no
longer represent a threat to innocent men, women and children,
and more than 3,000 al-Qaeda [members] and their supporters have
been arrested and detained.
of counterterrorism are all very positive, and it is a credit
to those personnel of various law enforcement and security services,
and diplomatic services around the world, that have been communicating
and have been cooperating with each other that have created this
result. We need only to think back to 9/11 to see the effect
of such a catastrophic attack, and at times the very real prospect
of further attacks [was] imminent, and from the hard work of
everyone around the globe, this has not happened, for which,
as an American official, I am very grateful.
the al-Qaeda threat still very real, or is it not?
is very real. Al-Qaeda represents a real and ongoing threat to
the United States and to her interests, as well as to other freedom-loving
peoples of the world. Al-Qaeda has killed -- [and] they are currently
planning operations intended to kill -- innocent men, women and
children. And we are all pulling together to identify their operatives,
to identify the threats that they are trying to bring to fruition.
I think that it is a real commentary that this ideological hatred
that al-Qaeda seems to possess has been defeated by good hard
work and cooperation among the various countries of the world.
It is not over,
as the President of the United States has indicated. This war
is likely to be of uncertain duration. We have made tremendous
progress. Al-Qaeda, while a real threat, is on the run, is spending
increasing amounts of time being defensive, defending itself
as opposed to having the luxury of a safe haven [in order] to
launch attacks. So I think that they do represent a threat. The
threat has been effectively managed so far, by such things as
the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and
the key role that that department is playing in the defense of
the homeland. So I think that the indices are positive; the results
speak for themselves. And as the President has stated, we will
hunt down these people whose sole object is to hurt innocent
men, women and children.
al-Qaeda proving to be a highly adaptive organization?
al-Qaeda organization of 9/ll, as a direct result of the intense
counterterrorist pressure placed on it by the countries of the
world, has been forced to change its behavior and its modus operandi,
because continuation of the old ways would have assured their
comprehensive defeat. They are a learning organization; they
attempt to incorporate lessons learned in their losses. Yet,
they are struggling mightily -- those of the 9/ll era that have
survived so far -- to come up with new and innovative ways to
operate and to launch attacks, in view of the international onslaught
of the world's counterterrorism forces.
The edge and
initiative rests with those that are after al-Qaeda and hunting
them. The reason for that is that al-Qaeda increasingly need
to be defensive to protect their own security, as individuals
and in cells. While they're doing that, they don't have as much
time to plan operations, and the targets of the operations that
they would like to [conduct] are becoming harder and more secure,
as a result of the efforts of the governments of the countries
around the world to defend themselves against the scourge.
the reach of al-Qaeda greater than anyone thought?
has grown from the Saudi Arabian peninsula to include other areas
of operation. They consider the United States to be a key ally
of the conservative regimes in the Middle East, and therefore
it is placed under attack. Al-Qaeda, as an international organization,
seeks to attack American interests at their weakest point, and
views attacks launched in the United States as having more value
to them. Therefore, I would submit that it is an organization
that, in directing their assets, is seen as becoming more international.
I think in the last few years, their efforts to establish contacts
among local indigenous groups have increased dramatically, and
represent a threat that has been clearly identified, and recently
has been, is now, and will continue to be actively addressed
al-Qaeda, a Sunni-oriented group, now cooperating with Hizballah,
a Shi'a group?
think the -- this is a very interesting question. I think the
word that is important here is the word "cooperate." I think
these groups classically have had contacts and interaction, some
productive, some not so productive. I think their instinct at
the local, operational level, is to be -- has some element of
mutual support, in direct response to the growing efforts of
counterterrorist forces to identify them and to assure that they
don't hurt innocent people.
we beginning to see some type of convergence among terrorist
groups that is being led by al-Qaeda?
don't know if I'd use the word "convergence." One sees increasing
efforts to internationalize their mission, where al-Qaeda seeks
to establish effective and productive relationships, whereby
they can use local indigenous terrorist groups for their own
this a fairly new phenomenon -- say, within the past two years?
think in the past two years that it has certainly been intensified.
the 2002 Patterns of Global Terrorism report was released earlier
this year, the number of terrorist incidents had fallen dramatically.
What combination of things helped the dramatic turnaround in
incidents, and does it appear to you now that trend is continuing?
say the trend is clearly continuing. If you look at the year
2002, the number of international terrorist attacks was carried
as 199. For the period of this year, January through June, we've
had 105 attacks. Likewise in the year 2002, the number of anti-U.S.
attacks was 77, and the period in the year 2003, January through
June, it was 38. This is a direct result of concerted, €˜round-the-clock,
relentless, counterterrorist efforts on the part of the world's
nations. The seriousness of this threat is certainly recognized,
it is appreciated, and the response by the governments of the
world has been to turn this concern into action. To quote the
president of the United States, the community of nations is "on
the hunt" for al-Qaeda operatives, with the objective of protecting
are reading about a rise in activity in the Triborder region
of Latin America in the press. The fear is that the terrorist
world is trying to tap into the wealth being generated by the
drug world as a reliable source of new funding for terrorist
activities, and that is well hidden from view. Is this a rising
concern among the counterterrorism community, and is the United
States taking a serious look into that region?
United States has been, remains, and will continue to be interested
in the Triborder region. The first trip that I made, after being
confirmed as the coordinator for counterterrorism, was to the
Triborder region, where I met counterparts and colleagues from
Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, and the idea was to specifically
focus on the Triborder region, which we did do, we have intensified,
we continue to do.
identified the relationship between the Triborder and funding
for terrorism. We seek to cut those links. We also seek to have
a counterterrorist presence in place, to respond to any future
movement of terrorists into the region. Were they to come, we
-- the countries of the region and the United States -- will
be waiting for them.
it a rising concern, and is the United States taking a serious
I just addressed the Triborder region; you're [asking] about
our concern with the Triborder and its relationship to the funding
of international terrorism. This is one of the highest priorities
that the Bush administration has. We have active relationships
with the economic elements of foreign countries; we provide training
programs; we provide assistance in reviewing and making recommendations
to changing rules, laws and legislation, to facilitate the cutting
of the terrorists' access to finances. So far, over $136 million
of new monies have been frozen that were intended for terrorists.
The effort is ongoing and will continue, and we seek to, as one
expert put it, to "drain the swamp" so that terrorists will not
have access to funding.
number, $136 million, is very close to the total number that
was announced a few months after 9/11. In other words, we did
all we could in the banking system fairly quickly, and since
then, they've gone to non-banking system ways, and you never
hear how much we're progressing on the cutting off of funds.
They've learned, they've been burned, they've lost their assets
that were in banking systems. Is there any way to give an unclassified
answer on what successes we've had in the other ways that they're
trying to move money and that sort of thing? Is there anybody
I said before, more than 172 countries have issued orders to
freeze over $136 million in terrorist-related assets. More than
280 entities or terrorist groups have been designated under Executive
Order 13324, which freezes their assets; 685 terrorist-related
accounts have been blocked around the world, including 106 in
the United States. Over 180 countries have introduced new, terrorist-related
legislation, and 84 have established financial intelligence units.
It's much harder
for terrorists today to raise and move money. The terrorists
must now look over their shoulders, wondering whether it's safe
to move, raise funds, plan and conduct operations.
the United States continuing to work with regional and global
international organizations to develop common approaches in the
global campaign against terrorism? If so, what are some of those
act, of course, bilaterally, multilaterally, and regionally to
grow our global efforts to fight terrorism as the cornerstone.
As an example, most recently at the G-8 Summit in Evian of 2003,
the leaders there established a counterterrorism action group,
or CTAG, of donor countries to expand and coordinate training
and assistance for countries with the will, but not the skill,
to combat terrorism, focusing on critical areas such as terrorist
financing, customs, and immigration controls, illegal arms trafficking,
and police and law enforcement. Also, the Department Of State's
Foreign Military Financing, or FMF program, which focuses on
military professionalism and the equipping of often-beleaguered
armed forces throughout the world, is providing a direct infusion
of badly needed resources to combat terrorism.
includes training along with equipment?
the United States has begun offering additional training and
consultations with other nations seeking to develop or improve
counterterrorism policies. Could you give me some examples of
how that is working?
think I did that. I would say that as an example, on September
11th, there were only 2 nations that adhered to all 12 international
antiterrorism conventions and protocols. Now, over 30 nations
belong to all 12, and many more have become parties to most of
these conventions and protocols, and have passed implementing
legislation to put them into effect.