Gates: U.S. Has Strong Friends in Extremism Fight

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)

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