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American Forces Press Service

Defense Official Discusses International Partnership in War on Terror

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., March 1, 2007 – International partnership is vital in the war on terror, a senior defense official said yesterday at the 18th annual Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Symposium here.

“Our foreign special operations face is absolutely critical,” Thomas W. O’Connell, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, said.

O’Connell said there are new models of success in the war on terror, and mentioned the 2002 U.S.-Philippine combined action against the Abu-Sayyaf organization as an example of international cooperation against the global threat.

U.S. special operations forces there trained and assisted Filipino forces, and helped force the terrorist group off Basilan Island in the southern Philippines.

“That’s a classic example of how you apply an indirect model, (and) some direct action helping the voice of the Philippine government,” he said.

Acting in an advisory role, U.S. forces allowed the Filipino government to take credit for the operation, which “put a foreign face on the thing, and accomplished our objectives in terms of diminishing the terrorist network,” O’Connell said.

Sharing intelligence gathered on the battlefield is central to international cooperation, he said.

“As we pick up more and more people on the battlefield, be it financiers, be it communicators, be it bomb-makers,” he said, “it is very critical that we’re able to rapidly exploit (their intelligence).”

O’Connell said that rapidly exploiting intelligence --gathered from documents and interrogations -- is “a big help to us.”

“That information, even if we pick it up in Iraq, we’re capable very quickly of putting it back into the countries that our allies operate in so that foreign liaison can give us that reach-back into their intelligence systems,” he said. “Obviously, in many cases (foreign intelligence systems) will be more robust on that particular topic than our own.”

Addressing the diverse audience that included representatives from nearly 40 countries, O’Connell expressed his praise.

“I thank you allied and other nations for participating,” he said. “We oftentimes don’t express how proud we are to serve with you and how thankful we are that you stand with us.”

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