Commander Focuses on Counterterrorism

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2009 – Calling counter-terrorism one of U.S. Pacific Command’s top priorities, its commander says he’s seeing headway made through increased regional cooperation and information-sharing.

Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, in a Sept. 2 news conference, called the merger of assets and capabilities a big step toward the ultimate goal of eliminating violent extremist groups scattered throughout Asia and the Pacific Rim.

“We are a long way from that, in my personal view, but it is one of our highest priorities at U.S. Pacific Command,” Keating said during the news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand.

“The struggle against violent extremism continues. The events in Jakarta just a couple of months ago certainly illustrate to all of us that we have work to do here,” he said, referring to terrorists’ deadly hotel attacks in July.

Keating also noted the November terror attacks in Mumbai, India, that left at least 166 dead.

“As you move throughout the Asia-Pacific region, you will find concentrations of terrorists in certain locations,” he said. “We’re doing our best to assist those countries to combat terrorists and to make life more secure and more stable … for everybody in those countries.”

Keating pointed to Indonesia and the Philippines as examples of progress being made.

“We are pleased with the results Indonesia has made in restricting movement of violent extremists,” and in making it difficult for them to get the administrative, logistical and financial support they need to operate, he said.

Meanwhile, about 600 U.S. special operations forces are in southern Philippines. In addition to training the country’s armed forces in counterinsurgency and counterterrorist warfare, Keating said they’re also sharing information and providing logistical help.

Keating said he knows of no concentration of terrorist groups in New Zealand and its southern Pacific region, and vowed that the United States will do whatever it can to help New Zealanders keep it that way.

His talks with New Zealand officials focused on the two countries’ mutual interest in stability and security throughout the Asia-Pacific region. They discussed opportunities for their militaries to conduct humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and search-and-rescue exercises as well as personnel exchanges.

These relationships, Keating told reporters, promote a secure, stable environment that makes it increasingly difficult for violent extremists to operate.

That, in turn, makes it “increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for terrorists to lash out in their utterly indiscriminate, ruthless, bloodthirsty fashion,” he said.