U.S. Uses Tact To Track Terrorists In Asia

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Washington Examiner
April 12, 2007
By Rowan Scarborough, National Security Correspondent
WASHINGTON - While the United States uses military muscle in the Persian Gulf to fight al-Qaida, the Pentagon employs a lighter touch in Asia.
"We've learned from experience that having large footprints is problematic," said Marine Corps Brig. Gen. John Toolan, the Defense Department's principal director for South and Southeast Asia.
The Bush administration has coined the phrase "indirect approach" to describe the way it works with Asian countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines - all of which are riddled with Islamic militants and al-Qaida cells.
Instead of firepower, the counterterrorism effort concentrates on military training, intelligence sharing, maritime security and economic aid.
"We think that this indirect approach will eventually, over a long-term effort, address some of the root causes of terrorism," Toolan said Wednesday at the Pentagon. "We want to maintain those relationships, continue to build upon them and help break down some of the negative perceptions about the U.S."
The use of finesse instead of brute strength does not mean that Asia has lost its importance in the war on terrorism.
"Our national health lays squarely in Asia from not only economic perspectives, but from a security perspective," Toolan said.
The U.S. National Counter Terrorism Center says al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden wants "the establishment of a pan-Islamic caliphate throughout the world." Military commanders have told Congress that bin Ladin's initial strategy is to violently overthrow governments in the Middle East, and Central and South Asia.
In 2003, the CIA scored one of its biggest coups in Asia when it captured Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, an Indonesian who ran al-Qaida's Asian cells and who the U.S. says organized the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202 people. Hambali is incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Pentagon cites the Philippines as another success In Asia. After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, it sent troops to the southern Philippines to aid the local army in destroying Abu Sayyaf, an al-Qaida-linked terrorist group that controlled much of Basilan Island.
Relying on U.S. training and intelligence, the army smashed the guerrilla force and returned the island to local control. Ever since, the Pentagon maintains a small military presence to train and advise the army.
"The Philippine armed forces may have been regarded as a little bit heavy-handed," Toolan said. "If you see what they're doing now, they understand civil military operations."