Counterterrorism Expert: U.S. Must Help Partner Nations Fight Terrorism

The U.S. government must be prepared to help its international partners protect themselves, and by extension, the United States, from terrorism using a wide range of assistance programs and measures, says a senior State Department counterterrorism official.

These programs and measures are an investment that is based on U.S. security interests and objectives, said William P. Pope, acting coordinator for counterterrorism.

"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 [threat]," Pope said in prepared testimony for the House International Relations Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation.

Examples of the types of U.S. counterterrorism assistance available include:

  • Basic one-on-one training in community policing on the streets of foreign capitals;
  • Tactical training of local police SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams and explosive ordnance disposal experts;
  • Investigative training in encrypted cyber communications and reverse money-laundering schemes known to be used by terrorist organizations;
  • Fostering interagency cooperation through effective joint terrorism task forces;
  • Institutional reform of corrupt, security institutions;
  • Assistance in intelligence collection and analysis; and
  • Military training and assistance at the tactical, operational and strategic levels.

Not every partner nation needs "every item in our inventory of deliverables," Pope said. "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."

Pope told the subcommittee that when providing counterterrorism assistance, how things are done is as important as how much is spent.

"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," he said.

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