Counterterrorism and Emerging Security Threats


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The following interview offers a wealth of knowledge about security and counterterrorism through comments on diverse topics such as al-­Qaeda’s metastasized activities, to how the U.S. needs to articulate a strategic view to counter terrorism of the future and offer leadership.

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Counterterrorism and Emerging Security Threats

  1. 1. ‘‘ Global  Themes an issues brief series of the Dallas Committee on Foreign Relations DCFR Dallas  Committee  on  Foreign  Relations Issue  No.  7 December  20,  2012 Counterterrorism  and  Emerging  Security  Threats An  Interview  with  Juan  Zarate,  senior  security  analyst  CBS  News  and  former  deputy  assistant  to  the   President  and  deputy  national  security  adviser The  following  interview  offers  a   “In  the  long  term,  the  perception  of  the  U.S.  and  how  we  use  military  power  is   wealth  of  knowledge  about  security   a  critical  dimension  as  to  how  our  enemies,  competitors,  and  friends  view  the   and  counterterrorism  through   comments  on  diverse  topics  such  as   nature  of  American  power  and  its  resilience.”   al-­Qaeda’s  metastasized  activities,   to  how  the  U.S.  needs  to  articulate  a   because  it  has  so  many  broad   ending  anytime  soon.  What  the  U.S.   strategic  view  to  counter  terrorism  of   implications. does  about  it  will  be  critical.  Many  of   the  future  and  offer  leadership. these  security  issues  are  interrelated,   2)  The  direction  of  the  Middle  East.   of  course.   Jennifer  Warren: In  the  context  of  the  “Arab  Spring,”   emergent  security  threats? “Arab  Revolutions”  or  “Arab   3)  Iran.  This  country  is  part  of  the   Juan  Zarate:     Winter,”  the  question  is:  “Where  is   geopolitical  milieu  in  the  Middle   this  heading?”  Does  it  mean  positive   East,  and  their  march  to  nuclear   1)  The  changing  face  of  terrorism.   developments,  the  end  of  autocracy,   power  is  hugely  important.  Tension   We’ve  talked  about  terrorism  in  the   and  the  movement  toward  freedom   context  of  al-­Qaeda  since  9/11.  The   with  citizens  demanding  more  of   or  an  arms  race  in  the  Middle  East.   really  interesting  and  dangerous   their  government  for  minorities’  or   The  Middle  East  is  more  volatile  and   question  is:  How  has  al-­Qaeda   women’s  rights?  Or  does  it  become   morphed  and  metastasized?  How   an  opportunity,  as  in  other  revolutions   has  its  ideology  become  embedded   historically,  for  extremist  forces,  like   around  the  world  in  various  groups   the  Bolsheviks,  for  example?  Will   in  existence.  You  not  only  have  the   and  in  different  ways?  How  will  that   hard-­line  Islamists  take  full  advantage   obvious  problems  –  the  problems   be  taken  advantage  of  in  politically-­ and  gain  power  and  ascendency,  and   festering  in  Syria  or  Iran  marching   vulnerable  places  like  Egypt  and   then  actually  restrict  freedom  at  the   toward  nuclear  power  –  but  you   Syria?  The  terrorism  that  in  some   end  of  the  day,  both  on  personal  and   ways  originated  with  al-­Qaeda  and   on  political  levels?   its  ideology  and  methodology  has   Juan  Zarate,  former  deputy  assistant  to   evolved  over  time.  The  discussion   The  direction  of  the  region  has  a   the  President  and  senior  national  security   and  confusion  around  Benghazi  and   major  impact  on  the  security  of  the   analyst,  CBS  News,  presented  his  work   world.  We  witnessed  that  recently   on  countererrorism  and  emerging  security   of  a  lack  of  clarity  as  to  how  we’re   threats  at  DCFR  on  November  29,  2012.   thinking  about  current  terrorist  threats   and  Israel.  This  tension  is  festering  in   His  new  book,  “Treasury’s  War:  How   in  2012  versus  how  we  thought  about   Bankers  and  Operatives  Unleashed  a  New   it  in  2001.  That  is  very  important   Egypt,  not  to  mention  Benghazi  and   Libya.  These  developments  are  not   Era  of  Financial  Warfare”  is  forthcoming. 4925  Greenville  Ave,  Suite  1025  |  Dallas,  Texas  75206    |    214.750.1271  |
  2. 2. 2 “How  has  al-­Qaeda  morphed  and  metastasized?  The  terrorism  that  in  some  between  Sunni  and  Shia  that  persists   ways  originated  with  al-­Qaeda  and  its  ideology  and  methodology  has  evolved   over  time...”play.   in  a  sense?  What  does  that  mean  for   Counterterrorism  effortsThere  is  the  challenge  of  the  Kurds  in  the  region  and  how  that’s  playing   there?  In  that  context,  the  South   JW:  How  would  you  characterize  past  out.  For  example,  the  Syrians  have   China  Sea,  Taiwan,  and  even  North   counterterrorism  efforts  of  the  last  10  made  a  deal  and  a  pact  with  certain   Korea  are  very  important.  How  does  Kurdish  terrorist  groups  to  align   Asia  unfold  in  the  context  of  the  rise   to  what  you  think  the  future  looks  against  Turkey  which  is  part  of  the   of  a  very  important  China  and  other   like  in  this  area?reason  you’re  seeing  an  uptick  in   Asian  powers  like  India?  violence  in  Turkey  —  a  real  problem.   JZ:  This  is  a  fundamental  question.  It  At  the  same  time,  violence  in  Iraq   The  second  wildcard  is  the  South   is  one  that  hasn’t  been  fully  addressed  is  growing;;  the  Kurds  to  the  north   Asian  powder  keg.  People  tend  to   or  articulated,  certainly  not  for  the  are  concerned.  The  Kurds  in  Syria   forget  how  potentially  volatile  the   American  people  but  also  internally  are  concerned  about  what  sectarian   region  is,  particularly  Pakistan.   within  the  U.S.  government  in  terms  war  will  mean  at  the  end  of  the  day   Pakistan  in  the  near  future  will   of  strategy.  I  think  there  have  been  for  them.  So  there  are  these  grand   become  an  even  undercurrent  problems.   greater  nuclear  power,  4)  How  the  U.S.  handles  warzones.   Britain,  in  terms  of  The  fallout  in  Iraq  revolves  partly   its  nuclear  stockpiles.  around  the  lack  of  American   We’ve  seen  a  rise  of  presence.  The  U.S.  pullout  in   extremism  manifest  in  Afghanistan  and  the  picture  that   a  variety  of  ways,  not  emerges  post-­2014  is  important.  In   just  militant  groups  places  like  Yemen,  North  Africa  (with   that  exist  with  relative  al-­Qaeda  in  the  Islamic  Maghreb),   impunity.  But  we  also  or  Somalia  —how  we  approach   see  the  incidences  these  warzones  has  both  short-­  and   where  it  is  clear  that  long-­term  implications.  In  the  short   Pakistani  society  is  term,  we  have  U.S.  men  and  women   undergoing  severe  in  harm’s  way  in  Afghanistan,   strains:  the  shooting  for  example.  In  the  long  term,  the   of  Malala  Yousafzai  is  perception  of  the  U.S.  and  how   sort  of  an  emblematic  we  use  military  power  is  a  critical   case  recently.  Let  us  not  fail  to   chapters  in  our  counterterrorism  dimension  as  to  how  our  enemies,   mention  all  of  the  other  assassinations   strategy  and  policy  that  have  evolved  competitors,  and  friends  view  the   and  violent  things  that  happened  nature  of  American  power  and  its   in  the  last  couple  of  years.  There  is   There  was  a  focus  on  nationalist-­resilience.   driven  terrorist  groups,  such  as  the   Pakistan  and  India,  though  relations   Palestinians,  the  Irish  Republican  5)  Two  interesting  regional  wildcards.   Army  in  Northern  Ireland,  and  the   have  been  much  better  of  late,  with  One  is  the  power  shifts  and  potential   ETA  (Basque  nationalist  movement)   more  business  ties  and  the  political  rivalry  that  happens  in  Asia  as   in  Northern  Spain  and  Southern   leaders  beginning  to  work  more  China  becomes  a  more  important   France.  We  then  had  the  post-­Arab   together.  There  is  always  a  subtext  of  economic,  regional,  military,  and   mujahideen.  We  observed  the  political  power?  Does  that  power   rise  of  the  global,  violent  Islamist   Afghanistan,  a  post-­2014  Afghanistan  evolve  in  a  way  that  is  inherently  in   movement  spearheaded  by  al-­Qaeda   actually  becomes  the  playground   for  proxy  wars  between  India  and   on  the  Sunni  side;;  and  on  the  Shia  it  simply  be  in  competition  or  with   side,  their  Islamist  movement  was   Pakistan  and  others  in  the  region.  some  coordination,  a  happy  coalition,  
  3. 3. 3driven  by  the  Iranians  and  the   trying  to  control  territory  and  ports,   metastasized  ideology  has  embedded   attack  systems,  etc.  Al-­Qaeda  in  the   itself  and  manifested  in  a  very  proxies  of  Hezbollah  and  others  in   Islamic  Maghreb  looks  like  a  group   different  way.  Our  counterterrorism   of  smugglers  mixed  with  rebels  and  beginnings  of  a  transnational  terrorist   hunting  down  al-­Qaeda  leaders  or  threat  that  came  to  our  shores  on  9/11   stopping  plots.  It  should  be  about  emerged—and  awoke  us  to  the  real   The  environment  is  much  more  threat.   complicated.  It’s  very  hard  to  draw   environment,  so  these  groups  don’t   the  line  between  al-­Qaeda/non  al-­ gain  in  strength  and  have  either  the  The  challenge  now  is  the  threat  as   Qaeda  and  terrorist/non-­terrorist.  This   notion  or  the  ability  to  strike  the  we  know  it.  The  threat  that  hit  us  on   is  all  happening  while  you  have  the   United  States.  If  they’re  going  to  be  9/11  was  an  al-­Qaeda-­driven  threat.   political  winds  and  tectonics  shifting   a  problem,  they  need  to  be  a  local  Al-­Qaeda  has  always  viewed  itself   very  dramatically  in  the  Middle  East.   problem—  and  stay  that  way.  as  the  vanguard  of  a  Sunni  extremist   This  opens  opportunities  for  those  movement  and  revolution  in  many   who  are  ideologically  aligned  with  al-­ JW:  That  means  monitoring  a  lot…ways.  But  over  time  the  al-­Qaeda   Qaeda,  even  if  al-­Qaeda  isn’t  driving  core  has  largely  lost  control  and  movements  that  exist.  Now  in  2012,  there  is  a  landscape  that  is  much  more  fractured  and  metastasized,  with  some  elements  of  al-­Qaeda  diffusing  to  various  locations.  Al-­Qaeda  in  the  Arabian  Peninsula  in  Yemen  still  exists  like  an  al-­Qaeda  franchise,  driven  by  those  who  once  fought  in  Afghanistan  with  bin  Laden.  But  there  are  other  al-­Qaeda  elements  emerging,  for  are  ideologically  aligned  with  the  extreme  al-­Qaeda  viewpoint  and  agenda,  but  aren’t  being  directed  by  Ayman  al-­Zawahiri  or  anybody  else  in  Pakistan.  The  nature  of  terrorism  and  its  manifestations  are  happening  in  very  different  ways.  It’s  not  just  terrorist  cells  or   the  agenda  and  developments  in  the   JZ:  That  means  a  lot  of  monitoring  operatives  being  trained  and  sent  out   Arab  world.  At  the  end  of  the  day,   work,  diplomatic  work,  and  capacity  to  hit  American  cities  or  European   al-­Qaeda  becomes  a  player.  We’re   building.  In  a  strategy  going  forward,  cities.  Instead,  the  fractured  nature  of   seeing  this  in  Syria  with  people  who   we  must  understand  that  the  U.S.  this  movement  is  actually  embedding   are  tied  to  al-­Qaeda  or  may  have   can’t  be  in  all  places  at  all  times,   or  the  world’s  policeman.  In  terms  insurgencies.  In  Yemen,  for  example,   they  are  actually  driving  a  lot  of  the   of  resources,  we  have  limited  al-­Qaeda  in  the  Arabian  Peninsula   violence  and  a  lot  of  the  opposition   bandwidth,  which  means  sharing  looks  much  more  like  an  insurgency  –     to  President  Assad  in  Damascus.  To   the  labor.  One  of  the  very  important  holding  ground,  controlling  villages.   me,  this  is  a  much  more  complicated   legacies  of  the  last  eleven  or  so  years  The  Al-­Shabaab  movement,  which   environment  than  we’ve  ever  seen   is  that  we  actually  built  partnerships;;  is  aligned  with  al-­Qaeda  in  Somalia,   before.  The  shifting  landscape   we  have  helped  build  capacity  for  looks  very  much  like  a  quasi-­ others  around  the  world  to  deal  with  nationalist  insurgency  movement   threat  itself,  and  the  fractured  and   those  problems  on  their  own.  In   Southeast  Asia,  we  have  witnessed  
  4. 4. 4countries  in  the  region,  enabled  by   “The  strategic  shift  of  the  last  decade  was  really  the  ability  to  recognize  these  Australia,  dramatically  taking  the  the  area.  In  the  Middle  East,  Saudi   systems.”Arabia  and  the  UAE  are  very  capable  and  have  resources;;  they  are  helping   an  intense  focus  on  collecting  that   system  which  is  essential  for  global  Yemen,  for  example,  deal  with  their   type  of  information.  Its  collection   reach.  Any  organization,  company,  terrorist  problems.  In  East  Africa,   became  a  priority  along  with  all  of   network,  or  country  that  wants  to  the  Kenyans,  the  Ethiopians,  and  the   the  structures  within  the  intelligence   have  global  reach  has  to  access  African  Union  led  by  the  Ugandans,   community,  law  enforcement,  and  the  have  all  joined  forces  along  with  local   regulatory  world.   systems.  If  you  block  their  ability   or  make  it  much  harder,  costlier  or  Shabaab  terrorist  group  to  diminish   Financial  intelligence  was  recognized   riskier  to  enter  into  these  systems,  their  capacity.  This  takes  focus  and   as  being  extremely  valuable,  and   you’ve  severely  damaged  their  ability  attention.  In  many  ways,  the  U.S.   exponentially  so  after  9/11.  Money   to  have  global  reach  and  impact.  becomes  an  enabler  as  opposed  to  a   trails  don’t  lie.  They  can  provide   The  strategic  shift  of  the  last  decade  chief  protagonist.   very  clear  links  between  individuals,   was  really  the  ability  to  recognize   groups,  and  operations.  If  you’re  able   these  deterrents  and  then  devise  “Following  the  money”JW:  When  did  “following  the  money”  become  a  cornerstone  activity?  And  what  effect  has  it  had  for  enabling  the  U.S.  to  mitigate  or  thwart  terrorist  plots  and  security  threats?JZ:to  answer.  “Following  the  money”  in  many  ways  has  always  been  a  fundamental  part  of  U.S.  law  enforcement  and  the  way  that  governments  have  dealt  with  serious  threats.  Eliot  Ness  took  down  Al  Capone  by  going  after  him  on  tax  charges.  Following  the  money  and  leveraging  money  as  a  vulnerability  for  enemies  or  criminals  has  always  been  a  part  of  the  landscape.   to  not  only  decipher  the  intelligence   but  also  follow  it,  you  can  be  After  9/11,  three  things  in  terms  of   destructive.   bad  actors  and  rogue  actors  from  the  “following  the  money”  changed  dramatically.  One  is  a  recognition  that   Another  idea  is  that  you  can  actually   end  at  the  day,  money  and  the  money   trail  becomes  a  huge  vulnerability  for   rogue  actors  and  terrorist  criminals  have  at  their  command,  the  ledgers   our  enemies  in  a  way  that  we  had  not  the  bad  guys  keep,  the  receipts  found   really  tapped  pre-­9/11.   This  was  the  grand  innovation  in  the  in  the  bad  guys  pockets  –  all  of  that  was  critical  in  putting  together  the   intelligence  important,  but  it  can  be  mosaic  of  intelligence  about  al-­Qaeda   used  tactically  and  strategically  to  bar  and  related  groups  that  were  trying   groups  and  individuals  from  using  the  to  do  harm  to  the  U.S.  There  was  
  5. 5. 5Security  concerns “In  many  ways,  the  world  has  viewed  American  power  through  kinetic  and  military  means  JW:  What  concerns  you  more  from   we  have  engaged.  But  the  nature  of  power  itself  is  shifting  to  economic  power,  social  a  security  point  of  view,  the  Middle   network  power,  power  of  media  and  the  general  dynamics  of  globalization.”East  or  China?   with  territorial  disputes,  the  South  JZ:  I  think  they’re  different  worries.   China  Sea  disputes,  and  the  rare-­There  are  broader  geopolitical   Hamas  and  Israel  was  such  a  priority  challenges  at  play.  You  have  Iran’s   for  the  U.S.   These  are  all  symptoms  of  a  China  quest  for  nuclear  power  –  not  just   that  is  growing  bigger,  stronger  and  to  be  a  nuclear  power  but  to  have   China  is  a  different  issue  because  I   see  it  as  a  longer-­term  fundamental  East.  That  scenario  is  a  real  threat   question.  How  we  view  China  is  to  countries  like  Saudi  Arabia  and   important.  How  China  views  itself   vis-­à-­vis  the  United  States  and  vis-­ Counterterrorism  and  foreign  policyEgypt,  the  Sunni  states,  as  well  as  Turkey,  which  sees  itself  as  a   à-­vis  the  rest  of  the  world  is  also   JW:  In  your  mind,  how  should  an  historical  rival  to  the  Persians.  The   relevant.  Will  China  be  a  responsible   effective  counterterrorism  policy  tension  between  the  Ottomans  versus   power  that  at  the  end  of  the  day  is   coordinate  with  respect  to  U.S.  the  Persians  is  emerging  again.    This   just  a  competitor  to  the  U.S.?  Or  is   foreign  policy?happens  on  a  daily  basis  not  just   it  inevitable,  as  some  have  argued   JZ:  Counterterrorism  should  neither   be  viewed  as  independent  nor  as  the   driver  for  our  foreign  policy.  It  needs   to  be  embedded  in  a  broader  sense   –  how  does  the  U.S.  engagement   with  and  in  its  shaping  of  the  world   environment  happen  in  a  way  that’s   commensurate  with  U.S.  interests   broadly?  It  can’t  simply  be  that  our   foreign  policy  is  dictated  by  our   counterterrorism  needs,  though  it’s   a  priority.  We  have  other  priorities,   such  as  economic  strength  that   concerns  in  terms  of  both  obvious   counterterrorism  security  issues  and   regional  security  interests.  This  all   has  to  interrelate  in  the  context  of   a  broader  foreign  policy.  A  bigger  in  terms  of  diplomacy,  but  on  the   historically,  that  when  you  have  the   issue  is  that  in  a  changing  security  ground  in  places  like  Iraq  where  the   rise  of  a  new  grand  power  trying   and  geopolitical  landscape,  how  Turks  and  the  Iranians  are  vying  for   to  displace  another  power,  there  is   will  American  power  be  used  and   leveraged?  Importantly,  how  will  it  be  unique  in  the  world  because  every   in  Asia  is  a  longer-­term  question   understood?   about  the  shifts  in  global  power—festering,  with  geopolitical  wounds   how  China  decides  to  play  its  role   In  many  ways,  the  world  has  viewed  that  can  erupt.  In  my  view,  the  Middle   and  how  the  U.S.  decides  to  play  its   American  power  through  kinetic  East  is    fraught  with  peril,  and  fraught   part.  This  is  fraught  with  peril  too,   and  military  means  and  ways  over   because  of  the  many  regional  issues   the  last  10-­11  years  just  because  of  Always  of  concern  is  the  Israel-­Arab   with  China  expressing  its  power  and   expanding  its  reach.  Its  neighbors  feel   we  have  engaged.  But  the  nature  of  the  Middle  East  that  at  any  moment   threatened.  This  is  already  apparent   power  itself  is  shifting  to  economic  
  6. 6. 6power,  social  network  power,  power  of  media  and  the  general  dynamics  of  globalization.  These  are  the  elements  that  form  power  in  addition  to  the  classic  elements  of  power.  So  how  will  power  be  viewed  in  a  global  lens,  including  American  power  and  how  it  is  leveraged?  Are  we  willing  to  actually  use  it  around  the  world?  We’re  in  a  period  of  reassessment  of  U.S.  power  and  how  much  we’re  willing  to  commit  abroad.  In  the  minds  of  many,  American  power  comes  with  a  commitment  of  military  resources,  which  we’re  not  willing  to  commit  anymore  after  two  long  wars.  Juan  Zarate  was  interviewed  by  Jennifer  Warren,   The  Dallas  Committee  on  Foreign  Relations  takes  no  institutional  positions  on  policy  issues.  The  views  ex-­ pressed  and  facts  presented  in  DCFR  publications  are  the  responsibility  of  the  author. GeoEdge BLOG For  additional  information  about  DCFR,   please  visit  our  website  at Exploring  the  frontlines  of   -­ ing  leading-­edge  developments  in  foreign  affairs.  Our  mission  is  to  promote  knowledge   of  global  affairs  and  a  better  understanding  of  the  people  and  events  impacting  impor-­ tant  policy  choices  of  the  future.For  more  information  contact:Dallas  Committee  on  Foreign  Relations4925  Greenville  Ave,  Suite  1025 Dallas,  Texas 214.750.1271