Five years after 9/11, the international community's conflict with transnational terrorists continues. Cooperative international efforts have produced genuine security improvements -- particularly in securing borders and transportation, enhancing document security, disrupting terrorist financing, and restricting the movement of terrorists.
The international community has also achieved significant success in dismantling terrorist organizations and disrupting their leadership. This has contributed to reduced terrorist operational capabilities and the detention or death of numerous key terrorist leaders.
Working with allies and partners across the world, through coordination and information sharing, we have created a less permissive operating environment for terrorists, keeping leaders on the move or in hiding, and degrading their ability to plan and mount attacks. Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and many other partners played major roles in this success, recognizing that international terrorism represents a threat to the whole international community.
Through the Regional Strategic Initiative, the State Department is working with ambassadors and interagency representatives in key terrorist theaters of operation to assess the threat and devise collaborative strategies, action plans, and policy recommendations. We have made progress in organizing regional responses to terrorists who operate in ungoverned spaces or across national borders.
This initiative has produced better intra-governmental coordination among United States government agencies, greater cooperation with and between regional partners, and improved strategic planning and prioritization, allowing us to use all tools of statecraft to establish long-term measures to marginalize terrorists.
Despite this undeniable progress, major challenges remain. Several states continue to sponsor terrorism. Iran remains the most significant state sponsor of terrorism and continues to threaten its neighbors and destabilize Iraq by providing weapons, training, advice, and funding to select Iraqi Shia militants. Syria, both directly and in coordination with Hezbollah, has attempted to undermine the elected Government of Lebanon and roll back progress toward democratization in the Middle East. Syria also supports some Iraqi Baathists and militants and has continued to allow foreign fighters and terrorists to transit through its borders into Iraq.
International intervention in Iraq has brought measurable benefits. It has removed an abusive totalitarian regime with a history of sponsoring and supporting regional terrorism and has allowed a new democratic political process to emerge. It also, however, has been used by terrorists as a rallying cry for radicalization and extremist activity that has contributed to instability in neighboring countries.
Afghanistan remains threatened by Taliban insurgents and religious extremists, some of whom are linked to Al Qaeda (AQ) and to sponsors outside the country. In Afghanistan public support for the government remains high, national institutions are getting stronger and the majority of Afghans believe they are better off than under the Taliban. But to defeat the resurgent threat, the international community must deliver promised assistance and work with Afghans to build counterinsurgency capabilities, ensure legitimate and effective governance, and counter the surge in narcotics cultivation.
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict remains a source of terrorist motivation. The holding of free elections in the Palestinian Territories was a welcome sign of democratization, but Hamas' subsequent refusal to disavow terrorism or accept Israel's internationally accepted right to exist undermined the election's impact. Terrorist activity emanating from the Palestinian Territories remains a key destabilizing factor and a cause for concern.
The summer war in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah was a prime example of how Hezbollah's continued efforts to manipulate persisting grievances along the Israeli/Lebanese border can quickly escalate into open warfare. The conflict did force the international community again to demand Hezbollah's complete disarmament, in UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701, and generated a renewed international commitment to support a peaceful, stable, multi-sectarian democracy in Lebanon. Even so, Hezbollah, a designated foreign terrorist organization, in combination with state sponsors of terrorism Iran and Syria, continues to undermine the elected Government of Lebanon and remains a serious security threat in the Middle East.
AQ and its affiliates have adapted to our success in disrupting their operational capability by focusing more attention and resources on their propaganda and misinformation efforts. They exploit and interpret the actions of numerous local, pseudo-independent actors, using them to mobilize supporters and sympathizers, intimidate opponents and influence international opinion. Terrorists consider information operations to be a principal part of their effort.
Overall, AQ and its loose confederation of affiliated movements remain the most immediate national security threat to the United States and a significant security challenge to the international community.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.