of Francis X. Taylor, coordinator for counterterrorism, U.S. Department
of State, October 10, 2001
Statement of Ambassador
Francis X. Taylor
Coordinator for Counterterrorism
U.S. Department of State
Committee on International Relations
Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Committee on
U.S. House of Representatives
October 10, 2001
Mr. Chairman, Members
of the Committee:
Thank you for the
opportunity to appear before the Committee and testify with my colleagues
on the subject of terrorism, and the presence of international terrorist
groups in the Western Hemisphere.
The horrific attacks
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, just one month
ago, were a jarring reminder that our country and our hemisphere are no
longer safe from international terrorism. In this global era, the Atlantic
and Pacific Oceans can no longer protect our land and our people from
violence, as they have done in previous international conflicts.
As you know, we have
presented to both Houses of Congress and our coalition partners around
the world clear and compelling evidence that the September 11 attacks
originated in Afghanistan, with Usama bin Ladens al Qaida organization.
While this connection is clear, we must also recognize that the threats
to our people and interests can come from any venue, including from within
the Western Hemisphere. For that reason I would like to speak for a few
minutes about terrorism in the Western Hemisphere.
This hemisphere is
no stranger to terrorism. Although we in the United States have been,
until recently, blessedly free of terrorist attacks by international groups,
terrorism has been a fact of life in many Latin American countries such
as Colombia and Peru for thirty years or more.
In fact, one can
argue that modern terrorism originated in our Hemisphere. We date the
advent of modern ter rorism from 1968, four years before Munich, when
revolutionary movements began forming throughout the Americas. The following
year, in 1969, the first terrorist kidnapping of an American ambassador
took place when Ambassador Burke Elbrick was taken hostage in Brazil by
members of two revolutionary groups. In those early years of the still-new
phenomenon, Latin America saw more international terrorists attacks than
any other region.
Today, the most dangerous
international terrorist group based in this hemisphere is the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Included on the State Departments
list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO), the FARC have murdered
13 Americans since 1980 and kidnapped over a hundred more, including three
New Tribes Missionaries, kidnapped in 1993, and now believed dead.
FARC leaders not
only welcomed the September 11 attacks. Afterwards they reiterated their
periodic call for the targeting of Americans for murder and abduction.
In addition, we have seen in recent months evidence of an apparent relationship
between the FARC and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and
possibly the Basque separatist group ETA as well.
The danger presented
by the FARC is compounded by activities of the other major Colombian insurgent
group, the National Liberation Army (ELN) a group that also targets
Americans, and by the far-right United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
(AUC). Both of these groups are also included on the FTO list, and the
AUC in particular has a history of extreme brutality.
In Peru, the Shining
Path, though greatly weakened, continues to carry out sporadic attacks
in isolated parts of the country. These attacks, mostly raids on small
villages for supplies and financial gain, have resulted in 27 deaths so
far this year, the majority of which were civilians.
Further South, in
what is known as the "Tri-Border Area" where Argentina, Brazil,
and Paraguay converge, we see the long-standing presence of Islamic extremist
organizations, primarily Hizballah and, to a lesser extent, the Sunni
extremist groups al Gamaat (IG) and HAMAS.
are involved in fundraising activities and proselytizing among the large
expatriate population from the Middle East that lives in the Tri-Border
area and also on Venezuelas Margarita Island. These organizations
engage in document forgery, money laundering, contraband smuggling, and
weapons and drug trafficking.
The size and nature
of these groups may signal the existence of clandestine support cells
that could be activated to conduct terrorist attacks anywhere in the region.
Hizballah is the
prime suspect behind the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos
Aires and the 1994 bombings of the Argentine Israel Mutual Association
(AMIA) community center. These attacks were characterized by the same
faceless cowardice that we saw on September 11, and they remain unsolved
to this day, although I am pleased that a trial in the 1994 bombing is
now underway in Buenos Aires. We hope the perpetrators will at last be
brought to justice.
The hemispheric threats
of terrorism are now moving closer to home. Turning to North America,
we are faced with a more diffuse and insidious threat: the threat posed
by our open borders with our friends to the north and south.
longest non-militarized border is that shared by the US and Canada, and
the second longest is that shared by the US and Mexico. Since the inception
of NAFTA, these borders that were already the worlds busiest in
terms of commerce, have become even busier.
We will never have
perfect knowledge of every person and every vehicle that crosses these
borders. Therefore, it is imperative that we work hand in glove with intelligence,
law enforcement, customs, and immigration officials in these countries
in order to make it as difficult as possible for international terrorists
to come into the U.S. undetected, as difficult as possible to cross and
re-cross our borders with criminal intent, and with impunity.
We in the office
of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism view our relationship with Canada
as the model for bilateral counterterrorism cooperation, and we know that
we must continue to build on that solid foundation. Like our relationship
with Canada, we must improve coordination with our counterparts in Mexico
as well as with the Central American nations that act as points of transit
for people and materials destined for the USA.
We know, above all,
that we cannot stop terrorism alone. We know that our best hope at stopping
al Qaida operatives and operatives from other terror organizations from
crossing land borders into the US, is to continue close intelligence and
law enforcement cooperation with Canada, Mexico, and the Central American
states. We know that our only hope of limiting the threat posed by groups
such as the FARC and the ELN in Colombia and the multiple Middle East-based
groups in the Tri-Border Area, is close intelligence and law enforcement
cooperation with our allies in these areas of operation.
With these goals
in mind, we are working closely with the OAS to expand its involvement
in Regional counterterrorism activities. My office has chaired the OAS
Counterterrorism Committee (CICTE) for the last year and has sought to
invigorate it as a forum for exchange of ideas and improved cooperation
within the Hemisphere. We are pleased with our progress and are optimistic
for the future.
My office has also
worked with the interagency community to craft a Counterterrorist Strategy
for Colombia and the other countries of the Andean region. This strategy
is designed to complement last years Plan Colombia and this years
Andean Region Initiative (ARI).
We also intend to
intensify our bilateral relations with Mexico as well as those countries
in the Andean and Tri-Border areas of South America to address specific
threats from groups operating in these Regions. Much of our efforts in
this area began before the events of 11 September; but that event has
given even more urgency to these initiatives.
Now, more than ever,
is the time for building coalitions against terrorism based on proactive
diplomacy, proactive law enforcement, financial controls, intelligence
sharing and iron-willed resolve in the pursuit of justice.
We cannot pretend
that we can make terrorism go away, but we can, in the short term, make
it far more difficult for terrorists to achieve their deadly objectives
in this hemisphere.
This concludes my
remarks. I will be happy to take any questions the Committee may have.
As of October 12,
2001, this document was also available online at http://www.house.gov/international_relations/tayl1010.htm