Winning the War on Terror

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A Conversation with Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI) - Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Moderated by Tom Gjelten - National Public Radio

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Summary

Despite the successes in eliminating high ranking leaders of Al Qaeda, and successes in limiting Al Qaeda’s ability to plan, train, and finance new terrorist operations, Congressman Rogers still expressed some concern regarding what have been referred to as “fracture groups”, such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which remain dedicated to the Al Qaeda core mission and beliefs, and whose leadership and organizational structures are relatively intact and remain a threat to the United States.  He added that now was not the time to back off, but rather time to “step on the gas” to help break their backs for good.

Regarding al-Shabaab, Congressman Rogers said that they retain the ability to conduct operations outside of Somalia:  “We have found that they have been working with AQAP on bomb-making training, finance operations, and safely transport their agents to places where they can be effective.  U.S. success in eliminating leadership has opened a window, by forcing younger, less patient and less experienced men into leadership positions where they are more likely to make mistakes which can be further exploited by the U.S.”

Regarding U.S. actions and strategies to combat terror overseas, Rogers remarked that drone strikes are an important tool, but not the only tool we have.  He said that we must use all available options to put pressure on terrorist networks on as many fronts as possible such as pressuring their financial networks, their ability to move people, and weapons.

Rogers warned against the threat of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorist groups.  He said that Al Qaeda is still interested in obtaining these types of weapons, and has attempted to acquire them from Libya during the transition following Qaddafi’s fall.  Beyond chemical stockpiles, we are aware of terrorist attempts to acquire man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) from Libya.  On Pakistan, he explained that they have not linked nuclear security issues with counter-terror issues, and will be continuing to expand nuclear arsenals, without properly addressing terror issues. 

Shifting to U.S. policy regarding detainees, Rogers was pleased with the compromise language in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Bill, shifting away from a law enforcement approach to an enemy-combatant approach.  Given that terrorist acts constitute an act of combat, he said that an enemy-combatant approach is the best fit, and allows the most opportunities to exploit intelligence opportunities immediately.  The current policy is so confused, that soldiers in the field cannot clearly understand it.  He said that keeping detainees safe and secure–while still treating them humanely–is essential, and the facility we currently have to do that is in Guantanamo Bay, and it would be a waste of money to construct a new one in the United States.  He added that he supported the president’s decision to keep enhanced interrogation techniques as a tool, and that it is not helpful to remove options from the table while conduction interrogations. 

Regarding defense cuts, Rogers expressed his hope that we not repeat the mistakes of the 1990s by slashing intelligence budgets, specifically human intelligence collection.  Our capabilities have expanded greatly, and they are maximized when different agencies and types of intelligence can be blended and merged together.  We are finding ways to save money by taking advantage of efficiencies, and sharing of costs across agencies.  However, he noted that as we cut back in defense spending, intelligence becomes even more crucial, so that we can know how, when, and where our more limited resources should be used.

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