Updated February 2, 2006
CONTENTS SUMMARY MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS The War on Terrorism Background Definitions U.S. Policy Response Framework Dilemmas Continuing Terrorist Threats U.S. Policy Tools to Combat International Terrorism Diplomacy/Constructive Engagement Economic Sanctions Economic Inducements Covert Action Rewards for Information Program Extradition/Law Enforcement Cooperation Military Force International Conventions Potential Tools An International Court for Terrorism Media Self-Restraint Policy Reform and 9/11 Commission Recommendations U.S. Interagency Coordination Framework and Program Response Antiterrorism Assistance and Terrorism and Crime Programs Assistance to Victims Programs Counterterrorism Research and Development Program Diplomatic Security Program Options for Program Enhancement
International terrorism has long been recognized as a serious foreign and domestic security threat. This issue brief examines international terrorist actions and threats and the U.S. policy response. As the 9/11 Commission report released on July 19, 2004, concludes, the United States needs to use all tools at its disposal, including diplomacy, international cooperation, and constructive engagement to economic sanctions, covert action, physical security enhancement, and military force.
A modern trend in terrorism is toward loosely organized, self-financed, international networks of terrorists. Another trend is toward terrorism that is religiously- or ideologically-motivated. Radical Islamic fundamentalist groups, or groups using religion as a pretext, pose terrorist threats of varying kinds to U.S. interests and to friendly regimes. A third trend is the apparent growth of cross-national links among different terrorist organizations, which may involve combinations of military training, funding, technology transfer, or political advice.
Looming over the entire issue of international terrorism is a trend toward proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For instance, Iran, seen as the most active state sponsor of terrorism, has been secretly conducting a longstanding uranium enrichment program, and North Korea has both admitted to having a clandestine program for uranium enrichment and claimed to have nuclear weapons. (See CRS Issue Brief IB91141, North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Program, by Larry A. Niksch.) On December 19, 2003, Iran signed an agreement allowing international inspections of nuclear sites; on December 21, 2003, Libya announced similar intentions. Indications have also surfaced that Al Qaeda has attempted to acquire chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons. As a result, stakes in the war against international terrorism are increasing and margins for error in selecting appropriate policy instruments to prevent terrorist attacks are diminishing.
U.S. policy toward international terrorism contains a significant military component, reflected in the war in Iraq; U.S. operations in Afghanistan; deployment of U.S. forces around the Horn of Africa, to Djibouti, and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia; and ongoing military exercises in Colombia. Issues for Congress include whether the Administration is providing sufficient information about the long-term goals and costs of its military strategy and whether military force is necessarily an effective anti-terrorism instrument in some circumstances.
As terrorism is a global phenomenon, a major challenge facing policy makers is how to maximize international cooperation and support, without unduly compromising important U.S. national security interests. A growing issue bedeviling policymakers is how to minimize the economic and civil liberties costs of an enhanced security environment. The issue of how to combat incitement to terrorism--especially in instances where such activity is state sponsored or countenanced--perplexes policymakers as well.
On July 22, 2004, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States ("9/11 Commission") issued its final report. On December 17, 2004, the President signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, establishing a National Intelligence Director and National Counterterrorism Center.
MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
In what many see as a major setback to faltering Middle East peace efforts, Hamas won 76 out of 132 seats in the Palestinian Authority's Parliamentary elections on January 25, 2006. Hamas is one of the more than 30 organizations the United States and other governments have designated as terrorist organizations. Its leaders have repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel and the organization uses terrorist attacks against civilians as a tactic to achieve that goal. Concern exists that should a Hamas-controlled government support terrorism in deed as well as rhetoric, a new Palestinian state might well be declared a state sponsor of terrorism, lose foreign aid, and face economic sanctions. Moreover, absent a meaningful renunciation of terrorism, nations are reviewing the pros and cons of continuing foreign assistance to a Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority.
BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS
The War on Terrorism
The Administration's response to the September 11, 2001 events was swift, wide-ranging and decisive. Administration officials attributed responsibility for the attack to Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda organization. One result was an announced policy shift from deterrence to preemption, generally referred to as the "Bush Doctrine." (National Security Strategy, [http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html].) Given the potential catastrophic consequences of terrorist attacks employing weapons of mass destruction, Administration decisionmakers felt that the nation could not afford to sit back, wait for attacks to occur, and then respond. The nation was mobilized; combating terrorism and crippling Al Qaeda became top national priorities. Preemptive use of military force against foreign terrorist groups and infrastructure gained increasing acceptance in Administration policy circles. In addition, a February 14, 2003, National Strategy for Combating Terrorism [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/02/20030214-7.html] gave added emphasis to the role of international cooperation, law enforcement and economic development in countering terrorism.
A full-scale campaign was launched, using all elements of national and international power, to go after Al Qaeda and its affiliates and support structures. The campaign involved rallying the international community, especially law enforcement and intelligence components, to shut down Al Qaeda cells and financial networks. A U.S. military operation was launched in early October 2001, against the Taliban regime--which had harbored Al Qaeda since 1996--and against Al Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan. A total of 136 countries offered a range of military assistance to the United States, including overflight and landing rights and accommodations for U.S. forces. As a result, the Taliban was removed from power, all known Al Qaeda training sites were destroyed, and some Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders were killed or detained. Since then, according to President Bush in his address to the nation on May 1, 2003, nearly half of the Al Qaeda leadership has been captured or killed. Notwithstanding, top Al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri as well as the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar apparently remain at large.
On March 19, 2003, after an intensive military buildup in the Persian Gulf, the United States launched the war with Iraq, one of seven nations on the State Department's sponsors of terrorism list, with an attack on a suspected meeting site of Saddam Hussein. President Bush, in his January 28, 2003 State of the Union Address, emphasized the threat posed to world security by a Saddam Hussein armed with weapons of mass destruction and stated that Iraq "aids and protects" the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. After a swift military campaign, President Bush announced on April 15, 2003, that "the regime of Saddam Hussein is no more." Saddam Hussein was arrested by U.S. personnel December 13, 2002, near his hometown of Tikrit.
In addition to U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan, U.S. forces have been dispatched to Yemen, the Philippines, and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia to train local militaries to fight terrorists. In FY2002 and FY2003, the Administration sought and received funding and permission to use such funding (subject to annual review) for U.S. military aid to Colombia to support the Colombian government's "unified campaign against narcotics trafficking, terrorist activities, and other threats to its national security." Similar authorization has granted for FY2004 and FY2005. Previously, such assistance had been restricted to supporting counterdrug operations in Colombia.
In the context of this campaign the United States has stepped up intelligence-sharing and …