Marshall Center teams take classes on road
India, Pakistan, England: All have been in the cross hairs of terrorists, and all are sending players to the West Indies to play in the Cricket World Cup.
Half a world away, the fledgling Afghanistan government is fighting insurgents whose tactics, such as suicide bombs, are difficult to comprehend.
The cricketers and Afghans are the first two customers of the Regional Education Teams being dispatched by the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.
The Garmisch, Germany-based school, which is jointly run by the U.S. and German defense departments, normally hosts officials from fledgling nations for four- and six-week programs.
Ron Elliott, a Marshall Center spokesman, said that busy people sometimes don’t have time to travel to Garmisch for classes. So the center instead delivered the courses to the site.
“We’re actually going out there and maximizing our professors’ and subject-matter experts’ expertise,” Elliott said. “We still have our courses ongoing here. This is just a way to reach more folks.”
The first two ventures were to teach topics such as how to best share intelligence and understanding motives of terrorists, according to Nick Pratt, a retired Marine colonel who worked for the CIA, and who heads the Marshall Center’s Program on Terrorism and Security Studies.
“In the old days, terrorism was a domestic, nation-specific problem,” said Pratt, citing the Irish Republican Army in the United Kingdom and Red Brigade in Italy as examples.
“Now it’s turned into a global threat to nations’ security. It has now changed, mutated from a merely domestic threat.”
In Trinidad and Tobago, one of the venues for the cricket tournament, Pratt and his team met in December with 42 representatives from the island nations. They talked about working together to prevent a terrorist attack during the tournament, which begins March 11.
“What they needed and wanted was for someone to explain why terrorism is threat to them,” Pratt said. “The discussion was on how the Germans prepared [for the 2006 soccer World Cup], what were their best practices.
“[West Indies officials] recognized it and they got it.”
The word “terrorist” can be misused, Pratt said, but for his classes, it means something specific. Terrorists, he said, are those who are trying to gain political power through violence, or threat of violence, against civilians.
Afghanistan security officials, for example, are still learning about suicide bombers and what motivates them, Pratt said. Even though the nation has endured three decades of coups, wars and Taliban rule, suicide-bombers there are relatively new.
Earlier this month, about 60 members of Afghanistan’s defense and interior ministries gathered in Kabul to talk about the bigger picture, Pratt said. He told them that they are not alone.
“We left them with the notion that they are part of a religiously inspired network of global insurgency, and talked about where they fit on this,” Pratt said. “It’s not just an Afghanistan problem or Iraq problem.”