Navy Admiral says "Terrorists can Multiply Faster
than They can be Captured or Killed"

By Rudi Williams

Calling transformation his primary concern, Navy Adm. Thomas B. Fargo told the House Armed Services Committee this week that sustaining and supporting the war on terrorism is the U.S. Pacific Command’s highest priority.

But Fargo, the Pacific Command commander, told the House representatives in a prepared statement that he’s "keenly focused on the Korean peninsula."

"Although I believe the likelihood of war is low, the stakes would be very high if war occurred – and even higher if North Korea continues to pursue nuclear weapons capabilities," Fargo said.

Preventing miscalculations that could result in conflict between India and Pakistan or in the Taiwan Strait also is a Pacific Command priority, the admiral said. "Recent dialogue between India and Pakistan and the resulting relaxation in tensions are very positive signs," he noted. "Our modest but constructive military-to-military relationship with China features high-level exchanges like Defense Minister Cao (Gangchuan)’s visit to Washington and Hawaii last year."

Taiwan is the largest source of friction in the U.S. relationship with China, the admiral said. But he added the United States remains prepared and committed to meet its obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.

Transnational threats are a major concern in the Pacific region, the admiral noted. "Despite recent and notable successes in the war on terrorism, we remain deeply concerned about transnational terror organizations including al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah and by more localized groups like the Abu Sayyaf group in the southern Philippines," Fargo told lawmakers.

"We also sense increasing synergy between transnational threats like terrorism, illicit drugs, trafficking in humans, piracy and especially the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Pacific Command’s efforts toward transformation include coordinating with friends and allies in the region to effect enduring improvements while strengthening the command’s ability to respond to emerging threats, Fargo said.

"Our relationships in the region, including five treaty allies and numerous friendships, are as strong as ever," he emphasized. "Nations within our region are making smart and generous contributions to regional and global security, including Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom."

Fargo said since 9/11, nations in the region are more aware of the interdependent vulnerabilities and the need for cooperation for security reasons. "This mutually supportive environment facilitates both our forward presence in theater and the security programs necessary to promote a peaceful, stable and prosperous Asia-Pacific region," he said.

Fargo listed the Pacific Command’s five top priorities as sustaining and supporting the war on terrorism, improving readiness and joint warfighting capability of Pacific Command forces, reinforcing the constants in Asia-Pacific security, promoting change and improving the Asia-Pacific defense posture for the future, and improving the quality of service of the command’s men and women.

"In addition to addressing terror threats in the Pacific area of responsibility," the admiral said, "the command is also a primary force provider to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom."

As an example of how nations in the region are cooperating against terror threats, Fargo said Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines have detained and arrested more than 200 members of the Jemaah Islamiyah terror group.

But he said regional and local terrorist groups with ties to the al Qaeda network continue to pose dangerous threats to the United States and its friends, especially in Southeast Asia.

Calling Southeast Asia a crucial front in the war on terror, Fargo said destabilization of the governments of that region – moderate, secular, legitimately elected, with large Muslim populations – would sentence the region to decades of danger and chaos. "We have to stop the violence," Fargo said.

The Pacific Command, with headquarters at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, hopes to do that with its near-term and long-term plan to deal with terror threats, he noted. "In the near term, we have to stop immediate threats against our citizens, our friends, property and vital infrastructure," Fargo said. "This near-term effort includes defeating actual attacks, disrupting the enemy’s plans and proactive defensive measures.

"We don’t see military action as the sole or even primary instrument of national power in this fight," the admiral noted. "Intelligence sharing and law enforcement lead much of this effort."

Fargo pointed out that these near-term efforts are an essential but incomplete solution because the war on terrorism, like the fight against other transnational threats, can’t be won by attrition alone.

"Terrorists can multiply faster than they can be captured or killed," he emphasized.

The command’s long-term effort is focused on strengthening the region’s democratic institutions such as education, law enforcement and basic services that provide security at the economic, social and physical levels, Fargo explained.

"Many of our efforts directly support this long-term goal," Fargo noted. "We believe we’ll reach a tipping point in the war on terrorism when sound governance prevails and citizens value their institutions more than they fear the terrorists."