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Chairman Poses Question to Counterterror Experts

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Sept. 27, 2004 – As the United States continues the global war on terrorism, the question officials should ask is, "Are we being as bold and innovative as we need to be?"

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, posed the question to officials attending a counterterrorism conference here recently. "I don't want to ask that question after what we are now calling 10/12 -- the next 9/11," he said. "The time to ask the question is now."

Myers quoted Dallas Cowboys football coach Bill Parcells, who said, "Success is never final, but failure can be." That saying resonates for counterterrorism professionals, Myers said. "All of us have to be right a million times a day, but the terrorist threat that we confront only has to be (right) once," he said.

Myers said there have been notable successes in the war on terrorism. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States and its allies have killed or captured more than 30 senior leaders in al Qaeda. The coalition against terror also has foiled many terrorist plots. "That is significant, but that is not the end of the threat, and that is not the only threat that is out there," he said.

And the threat itself has changed. Myers said al Qaeda "morphed" as it began being hurt badly by the pressure on it. He said the terrorist threat is less centralized than before, the network is looser, and intelligence professionals talk about "al Qaeda-associated groups" more than the organization itself.

However, the target of the threat has not changed. "We read the intel every day and see that the United States of America is still a prime target for an attack," the general said. "And the threat is as intense as ever."

The U.S. government and its international partners need to break old paradigms to confront the new threats. Myers said the United States should determine if its forces are structured correctly around the world to confront extremists. A regional approach might be more appropriate to the threat than a country-by- country approach.

"The old way of doing business goes a long way back," he said. "The world changed, and it requires a different perspective. How you deal with threats that don't respect any national borders is a real issue."

Another issue is communications. Myers said the government must continue to communicate the nature of the threat to the American people or to international partners. "This type of threat -- extremism that uses terrorism to create fear -- is probably a greater danger to our nation and our friends and allies than anything previous," he said. "They can exploit cracks and crevices and, through fear, take the underpinnings of this society and cause us to not be logical in the way we approach problems."

Myers reminded the counterterrorism specialists that the country has accomplished much and that much is still expected of them. "It's only if we quit that we'll lose," he said. "That's the only way that we can be defeated. We have to remind ourselves of that."

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Gen. Richard B. Myers, USAF

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