Cooperation Needed in Terror Fight, Myers Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BUENOS AIRES, March 13, 2004 It is still too soon to say definitively who launched the terrorist attacks in Spain March 11 that killed almost 200 people and wounded more than 1,400, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during a press conference here March 12.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, on a visit to the region to improve military- to-military ties, said the "heinous terrorist attacks" reinforce the need to combat the scourge of terrorism around the world. He said the United States stands "shoulder-to-shoulder" with Spain in the war on terrorism.
Myers said Spanish officials must perform more investigations before they can determine who launched the attack. Spanish officials said initially that the ETA a Basque separatist group launched the attacks at the Atocha train station. However, news reports said an al Qaeda splinter group sent a fax to an Arab-language newspaper in London claiming responsibility. ETA has denied responsibility.
"Any extremist organization that attacks innocent civilians is clearly outside the bounds of civility that most normal nations understand," Myers said. "It simply cannot be tolerated in whatever forms it surfaces. I don't think it matters what side of the political spectrum you are on; this form of political extremism is simply unacceptable."
The international community understands that, he said, and countries have reached across political boundaries to work together against terrorism. "We need to strengthen that cooperation until this threat is eradicated," Myers said.
Myers told the reporters that al Qaeda is damaged and disrupted in major ways. "Lots of top operatives have been captured or killed, finances disrupted, their Afghanistan safe havens have been eradicated, but nevertheless, they are a very adaptive adversary," he said. "Others have stepped in to leadership positions of those captured or killed. And they still have significant operational capabilities."
The chairman stressed that the solution to groups like al Qaeda rests not only with the military, but with law enforcement, attacking terrorist finances and on other fronts as well.
During his stay in Argentina, Myers met with Vice President Daniel Ozvaldo Scioli, Defense Minister Dr. Jose Pampuro and Argentine air force Gen. Jorge Alberto Chevalier.
Myers discussed the peacekeeping mission in Haiti. The Argentine government may decide to send forces to the nation. "The Argentine armed forces are particularly good at this task," Myers said. "They've deployed around the world to participate in U.N. peacekeeping missions."
He said a U.N. assessment team is in Haiti now to determine the requirements for a follow-on peacekeeping force. That group will report back to the headquarters in New York. The U.N. Security Council likely will likely authorize a peacekeeping force, he added.
But the main discussion point with Argentina during the chairman's visit was to tend and nurture the military-to-military relationship between the United States and Argentina. The country is recovering from its economic collapse of two years ago. The cash-strapped military is looking for new ways to economize. But it is important to maintain the relationship between the two militaries, Myers said.
"Our military-to-military relationship is strong, shown by our cooperation on issues such as peacekeeping, counterproliferation, regional security and counterterrorism," he said. "We appreciate the continued support of joint and combined exercises. We look forward to enhancing our bilateral cooperation to further our interoperability and to further address illegal trafficking, transnational crime and terrorism throughout the Western Hemisphere."