Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Thirty new terrorist organizations have emerged since the September 11, 2001, attacks, outpacing U.S. efforts to crush the threat, said Brig. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, the Pentagon’s deputy director for the war on terrorism.

“We are not killing them faster than they are being created,” Gen. Caslen told a gathering at the Woodrow Wilson Center yesterday, warning that the war could take decades to resolve.

Gen. Caslen said that two years ago the Department of Defense had not settled on a clear definition of the nature of the war. Moreover, because each government department had its own perspective, “we all had different strategies,” he said.

The Defense Department now has defined the nature of the war, he said. The enemy, he said, is “a transnational movement of extremist organizations, networks and individuals that use violence and terrorism as a means to promote their end.” It is not a global insurgency, the general said.

“We do not go as far as to say it is a global insurgency, because it lacks a centralized command and control,” he said.

Groups such as al Qaeda, though, are constantly trying to increase their capabilities, and in some cases are outstripping the United States, Gen. Caslen said.

“We in the Pentagon are behind our adversaries in the use of communications — either to recruit or train,” he said. Compared with historical jihads, or enduring Muslim wars, this one “is accelerated because of its capability in communications.”

The Pentagon official said Muslim thought ranges from secular and mainstream to extremist and intolerant.

The takfir (infidel) view of the world that falls under the Salafist teachings of the Sunni sect — such as al Qaeda in Iraq — is an example of the extremist view that condones violence to accomplish ideological ends, he said.

The general said the extremists’ goal is to remove U.S. troops from Iraq and establish a radical state under Shariah, or Islamic law, remove what they consider the apostate governments of Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt, and destroy Israel.

But the enemy has vulnerabilities.

“The ideology is not popular among most, even Muslims,” he said. “We need to undermine support by amplifying the moderate forces and undermining the enemy’s repressive and corrupt behavior.”

Gen. Caslen said the government and military are working to integrate their strategies and plans, and that a national strategic presidential directive and homeland security presidential directive are being drafted to face the terrorist threat.

Leading the war on terrorism is Special Operations Command based in Tampa, Fla. The command is writing a military global campaign strategy with a specific plan to deal with each terrorist organization.

Gen. Caslen said a governmentwide plan to assign tasks and responsibilities to all U.S. government departments and the military also is being created.

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