Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515-0128
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on International Relations
Subcommittees on Asia and the Pacific, and on
International Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Human Rights
Testimony by Matthew P. Daley
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Department of State
October 29, 2003
U.S. Counter-terrorism Policy for East Asia and the Pacific
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the subcommittees, I appreciate the opportunity to meet with you. The President has just returned from East Asia, where he met with our Asian allies and partners in the war against terrorism, not just at the APEC Summit in Thailand but also during his visits to Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia.
In East Asia and the Pacific, counter-terrorism moved to the top of our foreign policy priorities after September 11. Southeast Asia, home to more than 200 million Muslims, is threatened not only by Al-Qaida but also by regional terrorist organizations such as the Jemaah Islamiyah. With the murder of 202 people in the October 2002 bombing in Bali, Indonesia, East Asia suffered the worst terrorist attack since September 11.
Southeast Asia was often viewed as on the fringe of the Muslim world. Thus, immediately after 9/11, Islamic-based terrorism was often portrayed as a foreign import to the region. We ourselves were most concerned that members of Al-Qaida would make their way from Afghanistan to Southeast Asia. But that was a misunderstanding. To one degree or another the states of the region, like the U.S., have been forced to readjust their views, and acknowledge the extent and sophistication of indigenous terrorist organizations and networks. Moreover, these networks are not composed of the wretched of the earth, but often of educated and well-off recruits. We continue to be impressed by the depth of the links that connect Southeast Asian terrorists
with their counterparts inside and outside the region. For example, a cell of the Southeast Asian regional Islamic terrorist Jemaah Islamiyah was recently dismantled in Karachi, Pakistan. We are not confident that we have yet identified all the tentacles of the terrorist networks or the boundaries to their presence and influence.
The new terrorism all of us face is transnational. Thus, defending ourselves demands unprecedented international cooperation. Just as terrorists work together to move men, materiel and money across borders, coordination with our allies, partners and friends is essential to prevent terrorists from slipping through the cracks between national authorities and, indeed, within some countries. Thus, diplomacy is the bedrock on which intelligence, law enforcement, financial and, in specific cases, military cooperation against terrorism, has expanded in East Asia.
In two years, Southeast Asian states have come a long way toward developing effective, cooperative strategies against international terrorism, while continuing to wrestle with demands to strengthen democracy and restore prosperity after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98.
Australia, China and Japan, among others, have made significant contributions to the international campaign against terrorism, both within and outside the region. Japan, our linchpin ally in Asia, continues to back the international war against terrorism. It supports our counter-terrorism efforts during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan by supplying coalition naval vessels with operating fuel at its own expense. Japan is a major contributor to Afghanistan reconstruction, and is vital to the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration efforts for that country. At the recent Madrid conference, Japan committed over a billion and a half dollars to Iraq's reconstruction to promote a civil society that does not harbor terrorists. Japan is also a partner in freezing and disrupting the flow of terrorists' assets.
We have no more staunch and valued ally across the board than Australia, whose troops fought side by side with American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and which contributes personnel and funds for Iraq stabilization and reconstruction. Australia has also assumed an important role in combating terrorism in Southeast Asia, closely coordinating with Asian countries and the U.S. on strengthening police, customs, immigration and intelligence capabilities.
We have worked with China on sharing counter-terrorism information and blocking the flow of terrorist finances by designating terrorists and terrorist organizations under the appropriate UN resolutions. China's awareness of the terrorist threat informs its global perceptions of the role of the United States' military operations in Central Asia. Equally important is the fact that our joint efforts against this threat have, in turn, built trust and strengthened our relations with these countries as a whole.
At the recent meeting of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders, the President stressed our fundamental belief that security and prosperity are inseparable. Leaders of the 21 APEC economies committed to take all essential actions to dismantle, fully and without delay, transnational terrorist groups that threaten APEC economies. Among the specific measures they agreed to this year was to control MANPADs. Over the past two years, the United States has also worked very closely and productively with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) to develop multilateral responses to a threat that knows no boundaries.
Concentrated attention on and coordinated policies to combat terrorism have degraded terrorist networks in East Asia. More than 200 terrorists have been detained or
arrested by our partners. Hambali - a key link between Al Qaida and the Jemaah Islamiyah - is now in custody. Malaysia has established a nascent regional CT center and regional training and cooperation is at an all time high. Nonetheless, we are well aware of the costs should complacency re-emerge, and of the long road many nations still have to travel to improve CT capabilities. Moreover, as they come under pressure in former havens in Southeast Asia, terrorists search for softer targets, in neighboring countries or potentially in piracy-infested waters, such as the Strait of Malacca.
While I have stressed, appropriately, the international and regional nature of the terrorist threat, and outlined the multinational response to this threat, inevitably much of the war against terrorism takes place within national boundaries. Mr. Chairman, I would now like to take the opportunity to review our specific efforts and the constraints we face in several countries in the region.
As the world's most populous Muslim country, Indonesia demonstrates daily that democracy and Islam are compatible.
Indonesians were inward-looking and, frankly, often reluctant to acknowledge the reality of the terrorist threat until the Bali bombing last October led to a dramatic shift in public opinion. Since Bali, and especially since the Marriott Hotel bombing in August this year, Indonesian authorities have aggressively pursued and brought terrorists to justice. Domestic counter-terrorism legislation has received parliamentary approval and the government has increased cooperation and consultation with its neighbors. Indonesian courts sentenced Jemaah Islamiyah spiritual leader Abu Bakr Bashir to imprisonment, though this sentence is now under appeal. Indonesia has convicted nearly 30 Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists in connection with the Bali bombing, sentencing some to death. And finally, Indonesia's important moderate Muslim organizations are speaking out against violence, and recapturing the lead in public discourse.
However, while the will to combat terrorism has grown, Indonesia remains a country whose counter-terrorism efforts face the challenges of porous borders, an often-lax judicial system, corruption, and a generally poor educational system, a small part of which has proved to be a breeding ground for extremists and terrorists. Moreover, some in Indonesia continue publicly to attribute part of the blame for international terrorism to U.S. Middle East policy. A key challenge for the political system in Indonesia will be the sustained pursuit of terrorists even as sensitivities are heightened by the approach of elections next year.
Our counter-terrorism cooperation with Indonesia is designed to strengthen Indonesia's capabilities, through ongoing programs for police, judicial, and financial training, and through investigative assistance. We are working with the Indonesian government and several other donors to bolster that country's border controls and to coordinate anti-terrorism assistance. Moreover, the President proposed, during his recent visit to Indonesia, a major educational initiative designed to support educational reform and provide an opportunity to obtain modern education free of extremism.
The government of President Arroyo is a committed and valued partner in the war on terrorism, but limited resources and internal weaknesses constrain our close ally's efforts to fulfill its commitments.
While Philippine CT operations, involving U.S. military training and operational support, achieved significant results against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in 2002, more recent operations planned for February 2003 sparked an internal Philippine debate, and were postponed. The Philippine Congress did agree to amend its Anti-Money Laundering law to meet international standards, but the institutional weakness that is endemic among the security organizations in the Philippines was dramatically displayed with the escape of three dangerous terrorists from a high security facility in Manila on July 14, 2003. Subsequently one Jemaah Islamiyah bomb-maker, Fathur Al-Ghozi, was killed as he encountered the Philipine police in Mindanao, and another was recaptured on October 7.
The most hopeful development is President Arroyo's initiative to explore the possibility of peace negotiations with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest remaining Muslim insurgency in the Philippines. Unfortunately, some factions of the MILF have maintained links with terrorists. The United States has set aside funds to support a peace process and the U.S. Institute of Peace, in support of the Government of Malaysia, which has the lead for the international community, will help facilitate that process. Our funding in Mindanao is contingent on the MILF separating itself from terrorist organizations and personnel in deed as well as word and also on a successful negotiating process. I should add that the U.S. support for the territorial integrity of the Philippines is unshakeable even as we recognize that the Bangsamoro people have legitimate and long-standing grievances that must be addressed.
Additional U.S. help for Philippines anti-terrorism efforts is extensive, and includes security assistance, such as the training of anti-terrorism Light Reaction Companies, other programs to increase the efficiency of the Philippine Armed Forces, the Terrorist Interdiction Program, and new educational assistance for Muslim areas. The key factor, however, is institutional reform, without which U.S. assistance will not avail.
Singapore and Malaysia have been highly effective in their pursuit of terrorists. In fact, they were the first states in the region to crack terrorist cells and detain their members. Their commitment to fight terrorism in Southeast Asia is undiminished. Malaysia hosts a nascent regional counter-terrorism center, through which we offer training, and has detained nearly 100 members of the Jemaah Islamiyah and other terrorist organizations. In two waves of arrests in 2001 and 2002, Singapore also detained domestic Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists planning attacks against U.S., Singaporean and other interests. Singapore was the first Asian port to go operational with a program, known as he Container Security Initiative, which allows U.S.-bound cargo to be pre-inspected and cleared. Singapore has supported U.S. actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both nations will be critical to programs to implement maritime CT programs. Thailand's recent capture of Hambali, al Qaida's point man in Southeast Asia, demonstrates the support of this longstanding ally that prefers to say less and do more. Thailand has signed the Container Security Initiative. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency has signed a grant to start a port and supply chain project to promote secure and efficient trade between Bangkok's Laem Chabang port and Seattle. The Thai government has recently passed tough anti-terrorism legislation and amendments to its anti-money laundering law. It has also dispatched over 400 soldiers to Iraq and recently completed a deployment in Afghanistan.
Throughout East Asia, we support other governments and encourage them to cooperate with each other and with us against terrorism. We are determined to limit the ability of terrorists to carry out terrorist acts or find refuge, and eventually to eradicate terrorism. Bilaterally and multilaterally, we share intelligence, where appropriate, and provide and coordinate training, as well as other essential resources. In addition to helping our allies and partners to enhance their capacity to combat terrorism, we lay the groundwork through active diplomacy to build a coalition that will protect American citizens and interests in Asia against terrorism. We believe this effort has reassured Asians of America's commitment to their welfare, degraded terrorist capabilities, and strengthened U.S. relations with its East Asian allies and partners.
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