Broad Coalition Needed to Defeat Terrorism, General Says
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 27, 2006 A broad coalition of like-minded nations is essential to winning the war on terrorism, the Joint Staff's director for strategic plans and policy said here today.
"Terrorism is not a fight of just the U.S. to lead, it is a fight that a broad coalition has to engage in to be successful," Air Force Lt. Gen. Victor Renuart said during a Pentagon press briefing.
Renuart discussed the Multilateral Planners Conference, a biannual conference attended by 91 countries at the National Defense University here this week. The conference brings together senior military strategy planners from various nations to discuss issues in an open forum. The conference's primary focus was counterterrorism on a global scale, he said.
The conference is an avenue to "air areas of concern among a variety of nations not bound by alliances, treaties or particular regions," he said. "It's meant to open up a forum to discuss tough issues."
The general emphasized that hard solutions to problem areas are not necessarily reached at the conference, but that it is simply a jumping off point to begin tackling these issues.
Renuart said attendees were interested in learning what lessons the U.S. has gained from the war on terror, but he added that they all also brought their own ideas.
"This was not a conference where the U.S. stood up and lectured for two days. In fact, we were in the minority of the speakers," he said. "Participants brought briefings to describe their challenges, their lessons learned, their frustrations in combating insurgencies, terrorist organizations, and how they deal with humanitarian assistance challenges."
Renuart said areas such as border security, intelligence sharing, and how to deal with the challenges associated with "ungoverned spaces" all play a part in combating terrorism.
He pointed to Somalia and trans-Sahara Africa as ungoverned areas where no government is in full control of its territory. "Illicit trade, smuggling, piracy, narcotics trafficking, as well as terrorists, all flow through that kind of environment," he said.
Neighboring nations must be empowered to protect their borders because border control is important to stop the flow of illegal elements, including terrorists, he said.
Most nations understand that criminal activity and terrorism often go hand in hand. "They understand that even though their particular country might struggle with illicit trade, those same avenues can used by a terrorist to organization to move through a country to gain access to a third country," he said.
The general said the U.S. wanted to improve the capabilities of its friends to combat these problems. "One of the areas that was of great interest was how can the U.S. help other nations develop capacity within their own forces to deal with some of these challenges," he said.
"From an investment view, it is much more economical to invest in capacity building with your partners and friends than it is to insert military," he continued. "There was recognition that you have to work with your neighbors to help stem the flow of illicit elements, whether it's people, trade goods, weapons or narcotics."
Renuart also characterized cyberspace as an ungoverned area, where a set of structures that "truly govern its use" does not exist. He explained that terrorists use the Internet to their advantage by using it to spread propaganda.
Attendees also discussed how to define terrorism, he said. "Reaching a common definition is very difficult. In one country, organizations may use terrorist techniques even though they may be insurgents struggling against the government," he said.
He pointed to the recent struggle of Maoist rebels against the repressive regime in Nepal as a difficult-to-define case study. "Are they terrorists or are they insurgents? That clearly is a difficult definition to come up with," he said.