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25 July 2005

Joint Chiefs Chairman Says Extremism at Core of Terror Threat

All instruments of power needed for solution, General Meyers says

Washington – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says that the July 23 bombings in the Egyptian resort Sharm al-Sheikh demonstrate – just as do the London bombings – that attacks by violent extremists “can affect all of us.”

Air Force General Richard Myers told an audience at the National Press Club July 25 that it is a terrible thing when individuals who are determined to destroy themselves end up murdering innocent men, women and children.

Myers said he does not like to use the generic term “war on terrorism” because he said he believes violent extremists represent the true enemy and “terror is the method they use” to foment fear.

“We’re at war with violent extremism,” specifically al-Qaida, the United States’ most senior military officer said.

In Iraq the face of the enemy is one that is intent on murdering Iraqi civilians and officials alike, the general said.  The extremists there are trying “to foment tension and ethnic strife through murder and attacks on religious sites and persons,” he added.

But the threat of violent extremism and the impact that it can have is now “a global phenomenon for sure,” Myers said.

The general said he also tries to avoid using the phrase "war on terrorism" because it may suggest erroneously that the solution to the war will come from uniformed personnel.  It is not a conventional war such as World War I and World War II, or even the Vietnam War, he said, “where occasionally, you could draw lines on a chart and you could explain if we’re gaining … or losing territory.”

Even though military personnel are heavily engaged in battling extremists, Myers said, solving the long-term prospects of terrorism will require “all instruments of the international community’s national power.”  He said the long-term solution to terrorism is “more diplomatic … economic ... political than it is military.”  That is where the focus has to be in the future, the chairman added.

The stakes in winning are very high, the general said, because attacks by violent extremists “can affect us just by creating fear which has the impact to change our way of life.”

Myers said it is incumbent upon the political leadership in the United States “to continually remind people that we are a nation at war, that the United States military is heavily engaged.”  But he also pointed to other countries that are actively combating violent extremism in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

For more information on U.S. counterterrorism policy, see Response to Terrorism.