HOMELAND/NATIONAL SECURITY: Vickers on Counter Terrorism

July 24, 2014 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Counter Terrorism Strategy.

Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers (center) discusses U.S. counterterrorism strategy at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado. Moderator Brian Ross of ABC News (left) ,John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice  Department.  (Defense Dept. photo by Claudette Roulo)

Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers (center) discusses U.S. counterterrorism strategy at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado with Moderator Brian Ross of ABC News (left) and John Carlin, assistant U.S. attorney general for national security.
(Defense Dept. photo by Claudette Roulo)

The Pentagon’s top intelligence adviser says terrorists in Syria, Yemen and the wild region along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border still pose the greatest threat to U.S. security.

While the number of groups “aspiring to the jihadi philosophy has expanded” and the number of attacks have grown they are mostly focused on internal or neighboring enemies in the Middle East and North Africa, says Michael Vickers. But “the most dangerous threats to the American homeland emanate from Syria, from Yemen and still from the tribal areas of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region,” Vickers, said during a panel discussion on counterterrorism Thursday (July 24) at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

Vickers said the extremist  movement that has swept out of war-torn Syria and seized a large slice of Iraq under the name Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is “in a competition for leadership of the global jihad with al Qaeda … and they’re a threat not to be discounted as well.”

Before he became the principal intelligence adviser to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his successor, Chuck Hagel, Vickers served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity & Interdependent Capabilities, where he oversaw strategic forces, conventional forces and special operations forces – as well as advising the secretary of defense on counter terrorism and irregular warfare.

From 1973 to 1986, Vickers served as an Army Special Forces non-commissioned officer, Green Beret officer and CIA operations officer. During the 1980s he was the principal strategist for the covert paramilitary operation that drove the Soviet army out of Afghanistan (“Charlie Wilson’s War”).

Another security concern for Vickers: the number of foreign fighters streaming in and out of Syria who have passports from Western nations. He said they number in the thousands “so it’s a serious problem.” He noted that the number of foreign fighters streaming into Syria-Iraq is much greater than the flow of foreign fighters during the height of the Iraq War.

“I think Syria is a disaster from a threat perspective” because there are thousands of foreign fighters who a very hard to track, said another panelist, Juan Zarate, a former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Combating Terrorism during the George W. Bush administration. He said Syria was “animating the movement” and “drawing adherents” from around the world. “Any time you give terrorist groups — those with global ambitions and potential  reach — the breathing space to operate, to innovate, to strategize, to make connections, that’s a prescription for disaster. And I think that’s a real problem with Syria as it festers.”

Vickers also praised the armed Predator drone as the single most important asset for wearing down al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Yemen.

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Entry filed under: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Counter Terrorism, Homeland Security, National Security and Defense, Pakistan, Special Operations, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , .

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