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Building Global Network, Denying Safe Havens Essential in War on Terror

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 26, 2007 – In the long war on terrorism, it takes a network to defeat a network, a senior Defense Department official said today at the 18th annual Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Symposium here.

Mark Kimmitt, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Near East and South Asian affairs, said al Qaeda and its associates operate within a “full-spectrum network” that extends beyond the physical battlefield into the virtual and financial worlds.

“It has the ability to use the virtual and physical network, all tied together in this center of gravity of this radical Islamist ideology,” he said. “The fact that it uses the most advanced methods of communications to get what it needs to be done is truly remarkable.”

The al Qaeda network poses the greatest threat to the U.S. and other Western democracies, Kimmitt said.

“It has truly got its stuff together in terms of fighting as a network,” he said. “Those (improvised explosive devices) … going off in Afghanistan weren’t sent over there by books, they were sent over by information directly available on the Internet.”

Terrorists, who seek to obtain chemical and biological weapons, and fissile material for dirty bombs, use communication networks to recruit, wire money, and transfer tactics, techniques and procedures, Kimmitt said.

“As a result, we have got to be able to develop that same network ourselves,” he said. “The military does its job pretty well, but (a formidable network) is going to take the United States Treasury Department; it’s going to take the Department of State; it’s going to take all of our organizations to attack all of its nodes simultaneously.”

Kimmitt said the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., were not the only exhibition of terrorists’ talent. He cited strikes in Bali, Indonesia; Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Istanbul, Turkey; and Madrid, Spain, to underscore the war’s global scale.

To dismantle this global network, eliminating terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens is imperative, he said.

“It’s clear that (Osama) bin Laden and his associates take advantage of failed states, nations in strife, nations that aren’t able to … get the rule of law transmitted,” he said. “In our area of operation in the Middle East, we’ve got to reduce the number of safe havens and sanctuaries.”

In Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, efforts to deny such breeding grounds for terrorism represent a key principal of defeating al Qaeda and its associated movements, Kimmitt said.

“Bin Laden is looking for the next place to operate, and you can bet that he’s taking a look around this world where he can transfer his operations,” he said. “He’s going to be looking for a country or a land that doesn’t have a lot of control.”

Kimmitt said countries engaged in the global war on terror should posture themselves for “the long war,” emphasizing the lengthy duration required to defeat this uniquely organized enemy.

“(These) organizations don’t come together in a conventional hierarchy: one guy at the top, organizations at the bottom; they’re organizations that are highly networked together,” he said. “We’re talking about a significant number of organizations that transcend simply al Qaeda being at the base.

“It is a generational fight; it’s not one that we’ll see completed any time soon,” he said. “We would expect those attacks to go on and on until (the network) is defeated.

“This enemy is ingenious, but it is not 10 feet tall,” he said. “He can be, he must be, and he will be defeated.”

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