At the EastWest Institute’s sixth annual Worldwide Security Conference, international leaders and counterterrorism experts identified lessons to be learned from eight years of the “Global War on Terror” and ways to measure success in the continuing struggle against terrorism.
Leaders from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and several other countries presented a range of ideas to overcome terrorism, from coordination of military and police forces to an emphasis on political and social dimensions of terrorism.
“The response has to be multidimensional,” said Lieutenant-General Satish Nambiar, former Deputy Chief of Army Staff of India in discussing lessons from the Mumbai terrorist attacks last November. “It may however be appropriate to stress that the primary focus should be on prevention and if necessary preemption.”
Other participants suggested that political solutions are equally important. “A predominantly military approach can at best create the time and space for addressing the root causes that motivate recruitment into the terrorist ranks,” said General Ehsan Ul-Haq, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of Pakistan.
David Kilcullen, Senior Fellow at the EastWest Institute and a former advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq, criticized current strategies for too much emphasis on purely military solutions, but suggested that the world is adapting for the better.
“In terms of counter-organization, we’re doing quite well,” said Kilcullen, referring to successes in dismantling some terrorist networks. “But our focus has been a little too narrow and too costly.” Referring to President Barack Obama’s decision to send 17,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan while at the same time emphasizing a more sophisticated approach aimed at protecting the civilian population, he added that this is “an important opportunity to redefine what we’re doing today.”
The issue of political buy-in and civil liberties was also of concern.
“Allegations will no doubt surface that human rights are being trampled upon,” said Nambiar. “But it may be time for us in the larger interests to accept some curbs on our civil liberties.”
Alexandre Guessel, Anti-Terrorism Coordinator of the Council of Europe, offered a different view. “There is no contradiction between human rights and the fight against terrorism,” he said. “The major human right is the right to life.”
Pakistan’s Ul-Haq stressed the need for a coordinated political and military strategy, adding: “Success should be measured by the public support that is to be gained by this strategy”