[Congressional Record: August 6, 2009 (Senate)]
[Page S8980-S8981]


  Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, the Obama administration has rightly 
focused much of its attention not on Iraq but on the region of the 
world that most threatens our national security--the Pakistan-
Afghanistan region. This was long overdue. The lost time has greatly 
damaged our national security and left us with fewer options in South 
Asia. I continue to be concerned, however, that the escalation of our 
military efforts in Afghanistan could further destabilize Pakistan, 
where the leadership of al-Qaida and Afghan Taliban operate and where 
Pakistani Taliban elements are seeking to extend their reach. I 
expressed these concerns, among other places, at a hearing of the 
Senate Foreign Relations Committee to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the 
administration's envoy to the region. Ambassador Holbrooke conceded 
that the concern was real and that, while the administration was aware 
of the risk, they could not rule out these unintended consequences. 
Testifying before the same committee a week later, Admiral Mullen made 
similar comments.
  The war in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to the al-Qaida safe 
haven in the FATA and the Afghan Taliban safe haven in Balochistan, as 
well as to the current conflict in the Northwest Frontier Province and 
to the rest of Pakistan. It is not the same war throughout the region 
and it would be a mistake to perceive a monolithic enemy. But we need 
to consider the consequences of our actions and those of our partners 
throughout the region.
  Last year, I made a trip to Peshawar in the Northwest Frontier 
Province. There I met the province's leadership, as well as the 
extraordinary Americans working in our consulate there. During and 
after my trip, I expressed concern about the impact of deals made 
between the government and the Pakistani Taliban. Tragically, however, 
the situation in the NWFP got worse. Increasing violence in Peshawar 
included the killing of USAID employees and an attack on our top 
diplomat there. And the Pakistani Taliban's reach into Swat became 
broader and more radical, further threatening our national security and 
that of Pakistan. These advances must be permanently rolled back, just 
as safe havens in the FATA cannot be allowed to stand.
  But it is not enough for us to throw our support behind the Pakistani 
military incursions. This is a critical moment in which it matters how 
Pakistan seeks to reassert its control. The displacement of over 2 
million civilians, delays in assistance to and the return of the 
displaced, and a failure to ensure coordinated and accountable 
civilian-led security to the people all pose serious risks. Internal 
conflicts fuel terrorist recruitment and can create new safe havens. So 
while we have a clear interest in the success of one side--the 
Pakistani Government--we also have a clear interest in how this 
conflict is waged and how it is resolved.
  At the same time, we must focus more attention beyond the safe havens 
and instability in South Asia, particularly on Yemen and Somalia. The 
threat from al-Qaida affiliates in those countries, as well as from al 
Shebaab, is increasing. Weak states, chronic instability, vast 
ungoverned areas, and unresolved local tensions have created almost 
ideal safe havens in which terrorists can recruit and operate. They 
have also attracted foreign fighters including, in the case of Somalia, 
Americans. Al-Qaida's long tentacles reach into these countries, and 
our efforts to track individual operatives are critical, just as they 
are in Pakistan. But, while we should aggressively pursue al-Qaida 
leaders, we will not achieve our long-term strategic goals if we think 
about counterterrorism primarily as a manhunt or if we assume there is 
a finite number of terrorists in the world. Conditions in places such 
as Yemen and Somalia create and attract new ones. That is why press 
stories suggesting that operatives from Pakistan are relocating, while 
troubling, ignore the larger strategic picture. Because of conditions 
on the ground, al-Qaida affiliates in Yemen and Somalia are perfectly 
capable of expanding their reach and capabilities on their own. And the 
best way to stop them is to address head-on the reasons--frequently 
unique to the countries in which they are operating--for their success.
  The threats to our national security in Yemen are serious and are 
getting worse. News last month about the murder of as many as nine 
hostages in Yemen, which Yemeni officials have linked to groups 
affiliated with al-Qaida, is a reminder of the increasing violence 
there. As in Peshawar, our diplomats have been in the crosshairs, with 
the attack last September on our Embassy in Sana'a. And, as our State 
Department has warned, al-Qaida in Yemen's recruitment remains strong, 
and its tactics indicate high levels of training, coordination, and 
sophistication. Any serious effort against al-Qaida in Yemen will 
require the engagement of the government, whose capabilities and 
commitment are extremely weak. Yemen is a fragile state whose 
government has limited control outside the capital. It is also 
distracted from the counterterrorism effort by two other sources of 
domestic instability--the al-Houthi rebellion in the north and tensions 
with a southern region with which Sana'a was united less than 20 years 
ago. In other words, counterterrorism is hampered by weak governance 
and by internal conflicts that would not appear on the surface to 
threaten our interests. Our only choice, then, is to develop a 
comprehensive policy toward Yemen that places counterterrorism within a 
broader framework that promotes internal stability, economic 
development, transparency, accountability, and the rule of law.
  And we must do this while considering the obstacles to repatriating 
the approximately 100 Yemeni detainees currently detained at Guantanamo 
Bay. I have spoken out about security gaps in Yemen, particularly with 
regard to the escape from detention of a terrorist operative 
responsible for the attack on the USS Cole. I support the closing of 
Guantanamo, but with so many of its detainees hailing from Yemen, we 
need to take an honest look at the weaknesses in Sana'a's justice and 
security systems and consider whether there is anything we can do about 
  Instability in Yemen is, of course, directly linked to conflict in 
the Horn of Africa. Earlier this year, the pirate attack on a U.S. 
vessel briefly raised awareness of maritime insecurity fostered by a 
lack of effective governance and insufficient naval capacity on both 
sides of the Gulf of Aden. This problem continues, even when it is not 
on the front pages, and is both a symptom and a driver of overall 
instability in the region. Meanwhile, refugees from the conflict in 
Somalia are fleeing to Yemen. According to a recent U.N. report, thirty 
30,000 have crossed the Gulf of Aden this year with thousands more 
preparing to do so. The human cost to this exodus, as well as the 
potentially destabilizing affects, demand our attention. Finally, Yemen 
is linked to the Horn of Africa through arms trafficking that violates 
the U.N. embargo on Somalia and fuels the conflict there.
  The threat in northern Somalia is, or should be, more apparent now 
than ever. Last October, terrorists attacked in Somaliland and 
Puntland. These are regions--and regional governments--for which we 
have little in the way of policy. I am not arguing that we recognize 
their independence, but it is in our national interest to engage them--
diplomatically and economically--and to promote stability there. I have 
spoken frequently, and for years, about the need for a comprehensive 
policy for the Horn of Africa. Serious attention to the unique 
conditions in Somaliland and Puntland must be part of that policy.
  Meanwhile, the raging conflict in central and southern Somalia is 
worse than ever, as a beleaguered transitional government fights a 
strengthened al Shebaab and allied militias. Foreign fighters have come 
to Somalia to fight alongside al Shebaab, including Americans, one of 
whom was implicated in the October terrorist attacks. Al-Qaida in East 
Africa thrives on the instability and has even expanded its support 
network south, into parts of Kenya. Yet for far too long, our policy 
toward Somalia has been fragmented or nonexistent. Our counterterrorism 
approach has been primarily tactical and has failed to confront the 
reasons why Somalia is not just a safe haven for al-Qaida in East 
Africa but a recruiting ground for increasing numbers of fighters--
Somali and foreign--who are drawn to a conflict that is fueled by local 
and regional forces. That is why a comprehensive policy must include a 
serious, high-level commitment

[[Page S8981]]

to a sustainable and inclusive peace and why all elements of the U.S. 
Government need to work together toward common goals.
  As in Yemen, the key to a successful strategy is the recognition that 
destabilizing factors in the region are linked to threats to the United 
States. Thus, separatism in the Ogaden or Somali region of Ethiopia, 
the ongoing Ethiopian-Eritrean border disputes, and the ways in which 
these tensions motivate the policies of these countries toward Somalia 
must factor into our broader regional strategy. This is complex, to be 
sure. But we simply have no other choice--we must recognize the 
complexity, understand it, and devise policies that address it.
  This administration has a historic opportunity. And there are 
indications that lessons are being learned. The Director of the 
National Counterterrorism Center--whom the President rightly kept on 
from the previous administration--recently said the following:

       This is a global struggle for al-Qaida, but if we think 
     about it too much as a global struggle and fail to identify 
     the local events that are truly motivating people to join 
     what they view as a global struggle, we will really miss the 
     boat. We have to try to disaggregate al-Qaida into the 
     localized units that largely make up the organization and 
     attack those local issues that have motivated these 
     individuals to see their future destiny through a global 
     jihad banner.

  This is the strategic framework that we have been waiting for, and it 
is encouraging.
  But statements such as these are only the beginning. To effectively 
fight the threat from al-Qaida and its affiliates, we have to change 
the way our government is structured and how it operates.
  First, we need better intelligence. Recent reforms to our 
intelligence community have focused on tactical intelligence--on 
``connecting the dots.'' We have not tackled the gaps in strategic 
intelligence. We need to improve the intelligence that relates directly 
to al-Qaida affiliates--where they find safe haven and why. But we also 
need better intelligence on the local conflicts and other conditions 
that impede or complicate our counterterrorism efforts. And we need 
better intelligence on regions of the world in which the increasing 
marginalization of communities, resentments against local government, 
or simmering ethnic or tribal tensions can result in new safe havens, 
new pools for terrorist recruiting, or simply distractions for one of 
our counterterrorism partners.
  Second, we need to fully integrate our intelligence community with 
all the ways in which our government, particularly the State 
Department, openly collects, reports, and analyzes information. This 
integration, which was the goal of legislation that I introduced in the 
last Congress with Senator Hagel and that twice has won approval from 
the Senate Intelligence Committee, is a critical component of strategic 
counterterrorism. Without it, we will never understand the conditions 
around the world--most of them apparent to experienced diplomats--that 
allow al-Qaida affiliates to operate, nor will we be able to respond 
  Third, this integration of clandestine intelligence community 
activities and open information gathering must include the allocation 
of real resources to the right people. This is fundamental. We can no 
longer afford to have budget requests driven by the equities and 
influence of individual agencies, rather than interagency strategies. 
And while Congress should do its part, real reform must be internalized 
by the executive branch.
  Fourth, we need to recognize that when whole countries or regions are 
off limits to our diplomats, we have a national security problem. We 
know that regional tensions in Yemen, clan conflicts in Somalia, and 
violent extremism in Pakistan all contribute to the overall terrorism 
threat. But if our diplomats can't get there, not only will we never 
truly understand what is going on, we won't be able to engage with the 
local populations. In some cases, we can and should establish new 
embassy posts. For years, I have pushed for such an initiative in 
northern Nigeria, a region where clashes between security forces and 
extremists have taken hundreds of lives in recent weeks. In some cases, 
the security concerns are prohibitive. But there, we cannot just turn 
our backs; our absence doesn't make the threats go away. Instead, we 
should develop policies that focus on helping to reestablish security, 
for the sake of the local populations as well as for our own interests.
  Fifth, we need strong, sustained policies aimed directly at resolving 
conflicts that allow al-Qaida affiliates to operate and recruit. These 
policies must be sophisticated and informed. We have suffered from a 
tendency to view the world in terms of extremists versus moderates, 
good guys versus bad guys. These are blinders that prevent us from 
understanding, on their own terms, complex conflicts such as the ones 
in Yemen or Somalia or, to inject two other examples, Mali and Nigeria. 
They have also led us to prioritize tactical operations--DOD strikes in 
Somalia, for example--without full consideration of their strategic 
impact. Conversely, we have viewed regional conflicts as obscure and 
unimportant, relegating them to small State Department teams with few 
resources and limited influence outside the Department. This must 
change. Policy needs to be driven by the real national security 
interests we have in these countries and regions, and our policies need 
to be supported by all elements of the U.S. Government. That includes a 
real recognition that, sometimes, policies that promote economic 
development and the rule of law really are critical to our 
counterterrorism efforts, and they need real resources and support from 
the whole of our government.
  Mr. President, after 7 years of an administration that believed it 
could fight terrorism by simply identifying and destroying enemies, we 
now have an opportunity to take a more effective, comprehensive, long-
term approach. The President, in his speech in Cairo, reached out to 
Muslims around the world. The Director of the NCTC has stressed the 
need to address local conditions in the global struggle against al-
Qaida's affiliates. The Secretary of State has committed to aggressive 
diplomacy around the world. And the Secretary of Defense has 
acknowledged the need to increase the role and resources of other 
agencies and departments. Now, however, the real work begins. Changing 
the way the government, and Congress, for that matter, understands and 
responds to the national security threats facing us will not be easy. 
But we have no time to wait.