Conference focuses on NATO, EU strategies for fighting terrorism
GARMISCH, Germany — What can a room full of people in business suits do to stop four guys with bomb-filled backpacks from entering the London subway?
They could forge agreements to share information between countries, investigate and arrest perpetrators and penetrate terrorist cells. They could follow the trail of funny money that might be terrorist-bound, work better with the media to inform its citizens, and penalize nations that don’t help fight terrorism.
“They can do a lot, but that depends on the guy wearing the suit,” said retired Marine Col. Nick Pratt, director of the Program on Terrorism and Security Studies at the Marshall Center, which on Thursday concluded a conference called “NATO and European Union Strategies Against Terrorism.”
About 50 participants from 21 eastern European and former Soviet-bloc nations came to compare notes and speak their minds.
The usual recommendations were made: to share information better, to develop long-term strategies and, of course, to find more money to dedicate to the cause.
But other issues came up.
People from several nations said “terrorism” needed to be defined specifically instead of broadly so the fight could be better targeted.
Some said that poorer, less developed nations had larger, more pressing issues. Terrorism, they said, was not a front-burner item in countries where people are struggling just to make ends meet.
“Maybe [some nations] are not being totally conscious of the terrorist threat,” said Alma Stefanovic of Croatia’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs. “They are thinking they still have time to deal with it and are not perceiving it as an immediate threat.”
Evgeny Fomenko of Russia’s foreign office said the United Nations should formally declare a “struggle on terrorism.”
“That will lay a foundation for practical cooperation between countries,” Fomenko said through an interpreter. “Many countries lack that base for bilateral relations. There is no united approach against the phenomenon that is terrorism.”
In his opening address Tuesday, Rear Adm. Hamlin Tallent, director of the U.S. European Command’s Plans and Operations Center, urged the audience to find ways to infiltrate the cells that were plotting and financing terrorist acts and communicating with like-minded people throughout the world.
“It’s going to take humans to get in there, humans from your countries,” Tallent said. “I’m not talking about hiring people. Your own citizenry is going to have to turn against [terrorism].”
And what could the conference mean to the average GI in Iraq or Afghanistan who goes on patrols day and night and gets shot at or attacked by roadside bombs?
“The guys who are downrange now are on the front lines of a nasty fight,” said Pratt, who has taught classes at the Marshall Center for nine years.
“If we’re successful, we might prevent some international, militant Islamists from getting into Iraq or Afghanistan because they got picked up through the intelligence and law enforcement agencies of the countries where some of our students are from.”