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Diplomacy and the War Against Terrorism

Diplomacy and the War Against Terrorism

Ambassador J. Cofer Black, Coordinator for Counterterrorism Abbreviated (Oral) Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Washington, DC March 18, 2003

Mr. Chairman, Senator Biden, Committee Members:

I appreciate your invitation to testify on the State Department s role in coordinating the non-military war against terrorism overseas. I also want to express thanks to you and members of the committee for recognizing the crucial role our embassies play in combating terrorism.

With your permission, I have a more detailed written statement that I will summarize in oral remarks. I would like to submit the full written statement for the record.

Mr. Chairman, while I will endeavor to avoid covering the same ground as Under Secretaries Grossman and Green in the previous panel, one cannot overemphasize the importance of our diplomatic efforts in the global war on terrorism. Terrorists and their organizations cannot be defeated through force of arms alone. As Secretary Powell has stated, diplomacy constitutes this nation s first line of defense and also one of our most potent offensive weapons in the war on terrorism.

Diplomacy is the instrument of power that builds political will and strengthens international cooperation. Diplomacy helps us take the war to the terrorists, to cut off the resources they need and depend upon to survive.

I want to make clear at the outset of my remarks that the State Department and our embassies and consulates abroad certainly are not alone in carrying out this important mission. Many other federal agencies have critical missions in this regard. However, as the lead foreign affairs agency, the Department of State == through my office -- serves as the statutorily appointed coordinator and overall clearinghouse for the wide span of counterterrorism activities conducted overseas by the United States Government.

As you might imagine, the job of coordinating such a large interagency -- and international -- effort is a great challenge. It is a challenge because of the growth of counterterrorism initiatives and programs since 9/11. It is a challenge because of the evolving terrorist threat and the shifting international environment that, for example, is being affected today by Iraq s continued intransigence to disarm and its support of -- and potential future support for -- international terrorism. Finally, there is the challenge of undertaking these expanded responsibilities in the face of limited resources. In all of these efforts, our embassies and consulates play a critical role. Let me briefly describe our ongoing efforts in this context.

Embassy Activities

Since 9/11, we have methodically taken the battle against terrorism to the international front lines. Our embassies and consulates are serving us well. Over my career in international affairs and at times being a part of that diplomatic front line, I have much admiration and respect for the men and women who serve at our missions overseas. In the face of especially grave threats today, they continue to serve with great professionalism and bravery. Indeed, they are the backbone to our overseas counterterrorist efforts. It is this diplomatic readiness, to use Secretary Powell s phrase, that is vital to our ability to fight terrorism.

It is an important function of my office and staff to support this front line effort. Since assuming the Coordinator's job three months ago, I have traveled to Russia, China, Japan, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Tri-Border region of South America. In doing so, I can say unequivocally that our Chiefs of Mission and their country teams are invaluable resources. They are both leading and supporting our efforts to promote and achieve our counterterrorism agenda in their respective host countries and regions.

Our embassies also help to facilitate efforts to cut off support to terrorists through supporting our CT programs. Just a few days ago, my staff joined an interagency team that went to Manila to successfully assist the Government of the Philippines in adopting financial controls vital to denying terrorists access to funding and in so doing brought the Philippines into compliance with international standards. My staff and similar Washington-based interagency teams, joining our country teams overseas, are helping many other front-line states in this and other ways.

Our embassies and consulates also provide critical information on terrorist organizations. Such information serves as the basis for our imposing legal and administrative sanctions against such organizations. The Secretary of State currently has designated 36 foreign terrorist organizations. Among other consequences of such designations, U.S. persons are prohibited from knowingly providing any designated organization with financial and other forms of material support. We have also designated more than 250 terrorist individuals and entities under Executive Order 13324 on terrorist financing and under applicable UN Security Council Resolutions. This has resulted in the worldwide seizure of more than $120 million.


U.S. embassies and consulates also are working with us to train and equip frontline states to fight terrorists within and around their borders. Our Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program is providing training to 56 countries through 180 courses during FY 2003 and hopes to step up its training efforts in FY 2004. We are working with 37 countries through our Terrorist Interdiction Program (TIP) to evaluate, establish and improve border-monitoring capabilities.

These and other programs are described in further detail in the written statement accompanying this testimony.

To diminish the underlying conditions that terrorists exploit, we are coordinating our assistance programs to dovetail them with our counterterrorism interests. Our public affairs programs actively disseminate information overseas that accurately portrays our policies and promotes our democratic values. Our embassies play a vital role in this respect as well, advising us on our international assistance programs and actively fostering greater understanding of the United States through a wide spectrum of public affairs and exchange programs.

While these are successes, you have also asked me to comment on the obstacles we face and ways in which they have been or can be overcome.


Quite frankly, one of the biggest challenges is connecting the resources to our operational and program needs in a timely and effective manner. While we are deeply grateful for the support that the Congress has provided to our counterterrorism programs, delays in the enactment of appropriations have repercussions on our operations. I would defer to the Department's budget specialists on proposing a solution. However, clearly, there are difficulties that arise from having only a half-year to utilize funds that were originally intended to be expended over a full year period.

The Administration is also reviewing the requirement in current law regarding designations of terrorist organizations and individuals every two years. The designation of a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) expires after 2 years unless renewed. This year, 29 groups are up for redesignation, taking valuable staff resources away from other pressing counterterrorism work. We therefore are preparing draft legislation to amend the FTO statute and make it less administratively onerous.

Overseas, we face a number of obstacles. We have scored some notable recent successes, including the March 1 arrest by Pakistani authorities of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a ranking al-Qaida leader, through close cooperation and coordination with Pakistani authorities. However, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups continue to pose a grave threat to the United States and our allies. Your continued support for our capacity-building programs will help. While the dividends of such investment may not be immediately apparent, we must think of our global war on terrorism as a long-term fight that may take years or, indeed, decades as was the case with the Cold War.

Research & Development

We must also continue our counterterrorism R&D efforts. On this, I'd like to especially mention the work of the interagency Technical Support Working Group (TSWG), led by my office, that is developing new technologies to protect us against terrorist attacks. I am holding up two TSWG products of direct relevance to this Congress. The Quick 2000" mask is the one distributed to Members and staff. The TSWG guided its development. Another product of this R&D group is a specially designed card that will alert the wearer to the presence of radioactive materials.

Mr. Chairman, let me conclude by saying that the key to fighting terrorism is sustained effort. That can be achieved only through sustained resources. It is not just al-Qaida that threatens our citizens and interests but other terrorist organizations and their supporters, including state sponsors of terrorism. To defeat this threat requires our full attention both here in Washington and abroad. To win, your continued support to our embassies and the interagency community involved in fighting terrorism is vital.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify and I would be glad to answer any questions.


Released on March 18, 2003

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