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The military of the United States of America and of Great Britain began strikes against al-Qaida terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan on October 7, as part of the U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom. As U.S. President George W. Bush has explained, these carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime. Today, I have asked representatives of the U.S. Department of Defense to brief this Committee on the military actions now under way.
These actions, I note, are wholly consistent with the resolutions passed in this Casa de las Americas on September 19th and September 21st pursuant to the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, having the objective of responding to the armed attacks by terrorists on sites in the United States of America and preventing and deterring future terrorist acts in this Hemisphere.
We were joined in these initial operations by Great Britain. Many other nations have pledged forces as the operation unfolds. More than 40 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia have granted air transit or landing rights. Many more are sharing intelligence. As my President has noted with confidence, "We are supported by the collective will of the world."
I will defer to representatives of the U.S. Department of Defense to outline the military actions against terrorism that are now under way. But I will note that our military response was launched a full 20 days after the bloody attacks on my country.
The United States has acted deliberately, carefully, and in concert with a large international coalition. As the men and women in this room can attest personally, we acted only after beginning diligent diplomatic efforts to enlist international support for this global campaign. We acted only after being convinced that Usama bin Laden, his al-Qaida gang, and his Taliban protectors share responsibility for these attacks against our citizens. And, we acted only after careful planning to identify military targets that would have the greatest impact on the terrorists and those who harbor them.
Two weeks before resorting to military action, President Bush gave the Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands: Close terrorist training camps; hand over leaders of the al-Qaida network; and free all foreign nationals, including American citizens, unjustly detained in Afghanistan. As President Bush said upon announcing our military response, "None of these demands were met. And now the Taliban will pay a price. Every nation has a choice to make. In this conflict, there is no neutral ground."
Our President has committed our nation unambiguously and fully: "The battle is now joined on many fronts," he said on October 7. "We will not waver; we will not tire; we will not falter; and we will not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail."
The OAS member states have collectively answered the call, pledging solidarity and cooperation. Parties to the Rio Treaty have unanimously approved a resolution that puts the Hemisphere foursquare within the global coalition confronting terrorism.
That Rio Treaty resolution states clearly that these "terrorist attacks against the United States of America are attacks against all American states and that in accordance with all relevant provisions of the Rio Treaty and the principle of continental solidarity, all States Parties to the Rio Treaty shall provide effective reciprocal assistance to address such attacks and the threat of any similar attacks."
Specifically, the Rio Treaty parties have committed:
* "To use all legally available measures to pursue, capture, extradite, and punish" any persons involved in the September 11 attacks or any persons harboring the perpetrators; and,
* To "render additional assistance and support to the United States and to each other" to address the September 11 attacks and "to prevent future terrorist acts."
The OAS foreign ministers -- including those states that are not party to the Rio Treaty -- also called upon "all member states and the entire international community to take effective measures to deny terrorist groups the ability to operate within their territories¼."
The ministers declared that "those responsible for aiding, supporting, or harboring the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these acts are equally complicit in these acts."
Complying with mandates from the foreign ministers, the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism, which is currently chaired by the United States, met in a Special Session yesterday to identify practical, urgent steps that governments in the region should take to fight terrorism, with the initial focus on drying up sources of financing and ferreting out their illicit assets as well as encouraging stronger border controls and airport security.
In addition, the OAS Permanent Council will begin a thorough but urgent drafting process which we expect will develop a regional accord for fighting terrorism that is both forward-looking and practical. It could potentially serve as a model for the rest of the world, given the exceptional degree of unity of purpose and resolve within the Hemisphere.
The UN Security Council has spelled out our immediate tasks in Resolution 1373. It is an urgent call to action. All of us must emphasize to our governments the critical need to implement the measures it mandates. Resolution 1373 goes to the heart of how terrorism operates - it will deny the terrorist financing, safe haven, and other forms of support; the Security Council itself will closely monitor its implementation.
We must all join in this global coalition to disrupt terrorist financing. The U.S. Government and the United Nations have provided names of terrorist groups and individuals to the world community.
Since September 11, the United States has frozen approximately $4 million in assets belonging to the Taliban, Usama bin Laden and the al-Qaida network -- and several million dollars in additional assets are under review. Over 100 countries have committed to joining the effort to disrupt terrorist assets, and 62 countries already have put blocking orders in force. Nations around the world have frozen more than $24 million is assets since September 11.
At the request of the G-7, the Financial Action Task Force (a group of 29 countries) will hold an extraordinary plenary meeting in Washington D.C. at the end of this month to focus on specific measures to combat terrorist financing. U.S. Treasury officials attended a meeting of CARICOM this month to discuss ongoing cooperation in disrupting the financial infrastructure of terrorism. And a U.S. Justice Department expert briefed the Inter-America Commission Against Terrorism yesterday.
No small part of our efforts is to pursue these terrorists through the rule of law. On that front, the United States is leading an unprecedented investigation. U.S. investigators have interrogated over 600 people who may have been involved with the attacks, analyzed 241 serious/credible threats, conducted 383 searches, obtained 4,407 subpoenas, and arrested or detained 439 persons.
There are al-Qaida organizations in roughly 68 countries. In this part of our anti-terrorism campaign, as well, we are counting on -- and receiving -- the support of friendly governments. More than 30 countries are providing support in the ongoing criminal investigation. In an effort to ferret out these terrorist cells we have intensified counterterrorist operations with more than 200 intelligence and security services worldwide.
The international community already is taking concrete measures to round up the al-Qaida terrorist network. Over 200 suspected members have now been detained in other countries. We urge all countries to continue pursuing the al-Qaida representatives and to bring them to justice.
In addition, the United States Congress is moving deliberately but urgently to approve law enforcement measures sought by President Bush to assist law enforcement authorities and intelligence agencies to ferret out terrorists and thwart their evil plans. On Thursday morning, the Committee on Foreign Relations of the U.S. Senate is expected to hold hearings on the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings.
President Bush has made our policy clear: "We will direct every resource at our command -- every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network."
Mr. Chairman, my Government is particularly pleased with the concrete actions the Foreign Ministers of the Hemisphere have prescribed in applying the full host of measures available under the Rio Treaty and the Charter of OAS. And we are gratified by your personal leadership, and that of the Brazilian government, in this cause.
Let us continue our dedicated and urgent work against terrorism. Thank you.
Released on October 16, 2001
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