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13 March 2003

Admiral Says Fighting Terrorism Is Pacific Command's Top Priority

(Thomas Fargo before Senate Armed Services panel March 13) (780)
By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer


Fighting global terrorism is the highest priority for the U.S. Pacific
Command (USPACOM), says Admiral Thomas B. Fargo, commander of all U.S.
forces in the Pacific.


In his prepared testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee March
13, Fargo said sustaining and supporting the global war on terrorism
(GWOT) includes not only operations in the Pacific, but also those of
Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.


Fargo said that although there are no government-supported sanctuaries
for terrorists in the Pacific, "terrorist cells and organizations that
operate in the region provide unique challenges to USPACOM and to the
countries in which they proliferate."

For example, the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network and the Abu Sayyaf
Group (ASG) have demonstrated their capacity to attack U.S. and
Western interests in the southern Philippines, he said. Both groups
are believed to receive financial and technical support from al-Qaida,
Fargo said.

He noted the bombings of tourist nightclubs on the Indonesian island
of Bali last year, which killed nearly 200 civilians, including seven
Americans, and a series of bombings across the Philippines that killed
at least 22 people, including a U.S. serviceman.

Investigations and arrests in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia,
Thailand, the Philippines, and Australia, Fargo said, have revealed
"an extensive, sophisticated network, centered on the Jemaah
Islamiyah, that continues to plan attacks against U.S. and Western
diplomatic interests and less defensible commercial or tourist venues
across the region."

"We have credible information that al-Qaida has long sought to expand
its movement in Southeast Asia," Fargo said. "By leveraging its
connections with sympathetic groups and individuals, some previously
trained in Afghanistan, al-Qaida seeks to expand its network and
obtain the support of local proponents in establishing a regional
pan-Islamic state supportive of radical Islamic ideology."

"Our task, in coordination with other agencies," the admiral said, is
to ensure these terrorists do not destabilize established governments
in the region or threaten Americans or our friends. Regional alliances
and partnerships are critical to achieving both our short-term goal of
eradicating regional terrorist groups and our long-term goal of
establishing a security environment through the Asia-Pacific region
that rejects terrorism and addresses the factors that breed
terrorists."

"To meet this challenge," Fargo said, "USPACOM and regional
governments have strengthened counterterrorism cooperation over the
past year. Regional governments have made progress achieving
counterterrorism goals through legislation that combats terrorism and
its resource methods, by capturing and detaining terrorists, and
through interagency coordination and intelligence sharing."

The effort has been successful, he said. "To date, over 100 terrorist
suspects have been arrested or detained, primarily in Malaysia,
Singapore, Philippines, and Indonesia."

Governments in the region are increasing their cooperation with
regional counterparts to form bilateral and multilateral alliances to
combat terrorism, the admiral said.

For example, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is
working to establish a regional Counterterrorism Center in Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia.

The United States has established a full-time Joint Interagency
Coordination Group for Counter Terrorism at USPACOM Headquarters in
Hawaii, the admiral said. Its mission is to coordinate the
anti-terrorism activities of the U.S. Department of Defense and other
government agencies. "These command and control constructs are
successfully prosecuting the War on Terror while protecting our forces
and critical infrastructure," Fargo said.

The United States has been striving to increase cooperation at all
levels with Indonesia in the fight against terrorism, the admiral
said. "Indonesia has a difficult problem and has factions that do not
want to aggressively investigate groups within Indonesia sympathetic
to al-Qaida," he explained. "An International Military Education and
Training (IMET) program for Indonesia is key to our engagement
effort."

Fargo praised the efforts of Philippines President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo in the fight against terrorism. He noted joint
U.S.-Philippine efforts to improve the anti-terrorism fighting
capacity of the Philippine Armed Forces.

"Additionally, the infrastructure improvements to roads, hospitals,
and schools and the construction of water wells on Basilan Island
under DoD's humanitarian and civic assistance program provide positive
impact on local communities -- highlighting America's positive role
while assisting the Philippines in dealing with the socio-economic
causes that entice disenfranchised Filipinos to support activities."

According to Fargo, "USPACOM's Antiterrorism Program is proactive and
dynamic in its approach to protect our people and resources throughout
the Pacific. It is an 'active defense' because it has offensive
qualities."

The entire text of Fargo's 56-page testimony can be found on the
Senate Armed Services website at:
http://www.senate.gov/~armed_services/statemnt/2003/March/Fargo.pdf

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)