US counter-terrorism coordinator hails worldwide successes

By JORDANA HORN
November 19, 2010 01:29

Daniel Benjamin says international cooperation combating world terrorism one of the “truly unsung success stories of our time.”

3 minute read.



A volunteer passes through the first full-body sca

full body scanner chicago 311. (photo credit: AP)

NEW YORK – US State Department Coordinator for Counter-terrorism Daniel Benjamin has called international cooperation combating terrorism one of the “truly unsung success stories of our time.”

“A transnational threat such as terrorism demands that partner nations work more closely than ever to prevent attacks and disrupt terrorist operations,” Benjamin said, at a briefing on counter-terrorism in Washington on Tuesday. “And the truth is, the cooperation around the globe over the last nine years has been remarkable.”

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Benjamin noted that due to recent events involving packages containing explosives, Yemen is “probably at the top of the list” of such success stories. Benjamin said the US is currently working with a range of Yemenite security forces in order to increase their ability to confront al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula, as well as working to strengthen Yemen’s civilian institutions and to address its economic and governmental problems.

US developmental assistance, Benjamin said, “has roughly quadrupled since 2008, and we hope it will rise to more than 106 million [dollars] next year.”

“Through the Friends of Yemen process, the United States is engaged with international partners, including regional states, in working with the government of Yemen to help address the multitude of problems and to better coordinate foreign assistance,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin characterized Pakistan as “a frontline partner against terrorists who threaten Americans.”

Through the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation, Congress has authorized $1.5 billion annually in aid to Pakistan to build Pakistani infrastructure, provide vocational training, and improve the rule of law.

Benjamin quoted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the recent US-Pakistan strategic dialogue as saying that the United States has “no stronger partner than Pakistan when it comes to countering terrorism against the extremists who threaten us both.”

Citing a recent Washington Post investigative series on the Islamic militant group Lashkare- Taiba, Benjamin said, “Very few things worry me as much as the strength and ambition of LeT, which is a truly malign presence in South Asia.”

“As the two-year anniversary of Mumbai approaches, we continue to work very closely with our interagency partners and international allies to reduce the threat from this very dangerous group,” Benjamin said.

Later in his presentation, Benjamin continued in a similar vein, saying LeT “is a profoundly dangerous group, and its support that it derives from doing social services is like Hamas, is like Hizbullah, and is of course of great concern.”

Benjamin reiterated the US’s deep-seated opposition to paying ransom to kidnappers. The US, the UK, Algeria and Colombia, he said, are “among the few governments that refuse to pay ransom for kidnapped citizens.”

“This policy comes with real costs,” Benjamin said. “Terrorists may kill some hostages. But over time, they will learn that countries will not pay, and the frequency of their nationals being abducted will decline.”

“In the trans-Sahara region, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has shown resilience and an ability to raise substantial resources by kidnapping for ransom,” Benjamin said, adding that the US spends $150 million a year on the Trans-Sahara Counter-terrorism Partnership.

In terms of Europe, Benjamin said that al-Qaida and its followers “have clearly demonstrated that they have both the US and Europe squarely in their sights, and close cooperation between us is essential to successfully counter the common threat we face.” Two “critically important tools” in this effort, Benjamin said, are the US Treasury’s Terrorist Financial Tracking Program, and the US Department of Homeland Security’s Passenger Name Records program.

“We should be clear: dangerous conspiracies aimed at the US and Europe have been disrupted because of this information sharing,” Benjamin said, iterating that he wanted to reassure the public that “Europe and the United States have a long-standing partnership to protect both the security of our citizens and their personal data.”

“Our institutional arrangements for protecting privacy are different than Europe’s, but they are comprehensive, provide ample means of redress, and there is an outstanding record of data protection,” Benjamin said. “Continuing this cooperation is vital for all of our security.”


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