KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Nov. 9, 2010 — While expressing concern about the al-Qaida terrorist network’s expansion, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates emphasized today that the United States has “strong friends” standing up against this growing threat.
“We’re not in this fight by ourselves,” Gates told reporters here during a news conference with Malaysian Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. “We have some strong friends who see their own self-interest in dealing with this threat of extremist terrorism, so I’m confident that we will have the resources and the capability to continue to deal with it.”
Gates called the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area the “epicenter of terrorism,” with al-Qaida leaders there calling the shots for new, spinoff organizations.
“They provide guidance, they provide priorities, they provide legitimacy to other al-Qaida affiliates that are developing in other places,” he said, including the Arabian peninsula, Asia and in northern Africa’s Maghreb region.
“As we see al-Qaida spreading its tentacles in this way, the good news is, we have some very strong partners that are working this problem because of their own self-interests,” Gates said. “We have many allies that are helping us.”
International cooperation is credited with foiling two failed package-bomb attacks on the United States last month by an al-Qaida branch in Yemen. The packages were intercepted in Great Britain and Dubai before reaching their intended destinations. The United States is considering providing the Yemeni military counterterrorism training to help them keep terrorists from establishing a foothold there, Gates told reporters traveling with him earlier this week.
“There are more things we could do to help the Yemenis and strengthen their capabilities,” he said. “It’s fair to say that we’re exploring with them a variety of possibilities along those lines.”
Today, Gates noted France’s role in dealing with the terror threat in the Maghreb, which includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania and the Western Sahara. In addition, he said, the United States and Malaysia are exploring ways to enhance their counterterrorism cooperation in Asia.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)