Country Reports on Terrorism 2014
Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism
MR TONER: Anyway, look, I'm not the main show here, so I just wanted to introduce you to – or introduce, rather, Ambassador Tina Kaidanow, who's the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, and she's going to talk about – which was just released moments ago – the annual Country Reports on Terrorism 2014.
So without further ado, I’ll hand it over to you, Tina. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Good morning, everyone. Okay. All right. Well, again, thank you all very much for coming this morning. Today the State Department is issuing the Country Reports on Terrorism 2014, which fulfills an important congressional mandate and provides us also with an opportunity to review the state of terrorism worldwide and to find the nature and the scope of the terrorist threat. Doing so also allows us to assess our effectiveness and to best calibrate our strategy and our response.
Reviewing how involved and engaged countries are in the various aspects of their counterterrorism efforts, which comprises really the bulk of this report, helps us to make informed assessments about our priorities and where to place resources in our various capacity-building programs.
First, I would note that according to the statistical annex that was prepared by the University of Maryland, the number of terrorist attacks in 2014 increased 35 percent, and total fatalities increased 81 percent compared to 2013, largely due to activity in Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
More than 60 percent of all attacks took place in five countries: Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Nigeria. And 78 of all – sorry, 78 percent of all fatalities due to terrorist attacks also took place in five countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria.
The increase in total fatalities was in part a result of certain attacks that were exceptionally lethal. In 2014 there were 20 attacks that killed more than a hundred people, compared to only two such attacks in 2013.
While I cite these statistics, which are compiled by the University of Maryland and are not a U.S. product – U.S. Government product per se, I do want to stress again that in our view they don’t provide the full context. Aggregate totals or numbers of attacks are not really a particularly useful metric for measuring the aims of the extremist groups or of our progress in preventing or countering those activities. So to that end, I’d like to talk a little bit more about the content of the report itself and some of the trends that we noted in 2014.
Despite significant blows to al-Qaida’s leadership, weak or failed governance continued to provide an enabling environment for the emergence of extremist radicalism and violence, notably in Yemen, in Syria, Libya, Nigeria, and Iraq. We’re deeply concerned about the continued evolution of the Islamic State of the Iraq in the Levant, ISIL; the emergence of self-proclaimed ISIL affiliates in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, and elsewhere; and tens of thousands of foreign terrorist fighters who are exacerbating the violence in the Middle East, imposing a continued threat to their own home countries.
The ongoing civil war in Syria has been a spur to many of the worldwide terrorism events that we have witnessed. Since the report covers only calendar year 2014, it notes that the overall flow of foreign terrorist fighter travel to Syria was estimated at more than 16,000 foreign terrorist fighters from over 90 countries as of late December, which is a number that exceeds any similar flow of foreign terrorist fighters traveling to other countries in the last 20 years.
Many of the foreign terrorist fighters joined ISIL, which has seized contiguous territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria. Iraqi forces and the Counter-ISIL Coalition have dealt significant blows to ISIL, but it continues to control substantial territory.
As with many other terrorist groups worldwide, ISIL has brutally repressed the communities under its control and used ruthless methods of violence such as beheadings and crucifixions. Uniquely, however, it demonstrates a particular skill in employing new media tools to display its brutality both as a means to shock and to terrorize, but equally to propagandize and to attract new recruits.
Boko Haram shares with ISIL a penchant for the use of these brutal tactics, which include stonings, indiscriminate mass casualty attacks, and systematic oppression of women and girls, including enslavement, torture, and rape.
Though AQ central leadership has indeed been weakened, the organization continues to serve as a focal point of inspiration for a worldwide network of affiliated groups, including al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, a longstanding threat to Yemen, the region, and the United States; al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM; al-Nusrah Front; and al-Shabaab in East Africa.
We saw a rise in lone offender attacks, including in Ottawa and Quebec in October in Sydney and – sorry, and Sydney in December of 2014. In many cases, it was difficult to assess whether these attacks were directed or inspired by ISIL or AQ and its affiliates. These attacks may presage a new area in which centralized leadership of a terrorist organization matters less, group identity is more fluid, and violent extremist narratives focus on a wider range of alleged grievances and enemies.
Enhanced border security measures among Western states since 9/11 have increased the difficulty for known or suspected terrorists to travel internationally. Therefore, groups like AQ and ISIL encourage lone actors residing in the West to carry out attacks on their behalf.
ISIL and AQ affiliates, including al-Nusrah Front, continue to use kidnapping for ransom operations, profits from the sales of looted antiquities, and other criminal activities to raise funds for operational purposes. Much of ISIL’s funding, unlike the resources utilized by AQ and AQ-type organizations, do not come from external donations, but was internally gathered in Iraq and Syria. ISIL earned up to several million dollars per month through its various extortion networks, in criminal activity in the territory where it operated, including through oil smuggling. Some progress was made in 2014 in constraining ISIL’s ability to earn money from the sale of smuggled oil as a result of the anti-ISIL coalition airstrikes that were conducted on ISIL-operated oil refineries. But the oil trade was not fully eradicated.
ISIL and AQ were not the only serious threats that confronted the United States and its allies. Iran continued to sponsor terrorist groups around the world, principally through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, the IRGC-QF – Quds. These groups included Lebanese Hizballah, several Iraqi Shia militant groups, Hamas, and the Palestine-Islamic Jihad. Addressing this evolving set of terrorist threats and the need to undertake efforts that span the range from security to rule of law to efficacy of governance and pushing back on terrorist messaging in order to effectively combat the growth of these emerging violent extremist groups requires an expanded approach to our counterterrorism engagement.
President Obama has emphasized repeatedly that we need to bring strong, capable, and diverse partners to the forefront and enlist their help in the mutually important endeavor of global counterterrorism. A successful approach to counterterrorism must therefore evolve around partnerships. The vital role that our partners play has become even clearer in the last year with the emergence of ISIL as the hugely destructive force in Iraq and Syria that I have already described. We’ve worked to build an effective counter-ISIL coalition, a coalition that is clearly crucial because the fight against ISIL is not one that the United States can or should pursue alone.
More than 60 partners are contributing to this effort, which is multifaceted in its goals, not only to stop ISIL’s advances on the ground, but to combat the flow of foreign fighters, disrupt ISIL’s financial resources, and counteract ISIL’s messaging and undermine its appeal, among other objectives. I’d also highlight the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2178 in September of 2014 as a particularly significant step forward in international efforts to cooperate in preventing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to and from conflict zones. The notion of finding and enabling strong partners, of course, is not new, or limited just to the counter-ISIL effort. And indeed, many of our most significant counterterrorism successes in the past have come as a result of working together with partners on elements ranging from intelligence to aviation security.
The United States needs partners who can not only contribute to military operations, but also conduct arrests, prosecutions, and incarceration of terrorists with their facilitation networks. Addressing terrorism in a rule of law framework with respect for human rights is critical both for ensuring the sustainability of their efforts and for preventing the rise of new forms of violent extremism. Multilateral entities such as the UN and the Global Counterterrorism Forum can also play a critical role in promoting good practices and mobilizing technical assistance in this regard.
As we develop the partnerships needed to disrupt terrorist plots and degrade terrorist capabilities, we also need partners – both governmental and nongovernmental – who can help counter the spread of violent extremist recruitment and address the conditions that make communities susceptible to violent extremism. We must do more to address the cycle of violent extremism and transform the very environment from which these terrorist movements emerge.
That’s why we are committed to enlarging our strategy in ways that address the underlying conditions conducive to the spread and not just the visible symptoms of violent extremism. This was a major theme of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism earlier this year – some of you were there – which brought together 300 participants from over 65 countries representing national and local governments, civil society, the private sector, and multilateral organizations. The summit highlighted the especially vital role that partnering with civil society plays in our counterterrorism efforts.
In addition to counterterrorism assistance rendered in the fields of rule of law and countering recruitment, we provide a wide array of expertise and programmatic support for our partners to help them identify and disrupt the financing of terrorism, strengthen aviation and border security, and sharpen their law enforcement and crisis response tools to respond to the terrorist threat. The terrorism challenges that we face continue to evolve at a rapid pace, and we cannot predict with precision what the landscape will look like one decade or even really a year from now. But we believe strongly we can best protect America’s interests and its people over the long run by engaging in robust diplomacy, expanding our partnerships, building bilateral and regional capabilities, and promoting holistic and rule-of-law based approaches to counter terrorism and violent extremism. This remains our program of action over the months ahead.
And now, I’d be happy to invite your questions, so --
MR TONER: Great. Any questions? Brad, you want to kick us off?
QUESTION: Yes. You said one of the reasons for the report is to assess your effectiveness in fighting terror. Given the sharp rise in attacks, killings, and kidnappings, what does that say about this department and this Administration writ large, its effectiveness in fighting terror in 2014?
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Well, I want to point again to the fact that the numbers don’t tell the whole story, and I think there’s – again, there’s a reason for highlighting that. They’re geographically focused very much in conflict areas, which is probably not entirely surprising. And the lethality of some of those attacks, as I pointed out, has really – has gone up because of the savagery that we’ve seen in terms of carrying them out. So I don’t think it’s entirely surprising, the array of numbers that we previewed and that have been put forward in the statistical annex. It’s one way but not the sole way of addressing the effectiveness of our efforts.
I laid out for you a little bit, and we can talk a bit more if you like, about the whole array of things that we are putting against those trends. I do think, and I again emphasize it, that, again, this is not a battle or an effort that the United States can undertake alone. That said, we have plenty of things that we can offer to our partners, and we have and we will continue to do so. In fact, we’ll intensify that effort. But on the full array of things we just talked about, so – and we can go into any of those in any more detail that you like.
QUESTION: Can you give – if that’s not a good indicator or a good criterion for an assessment, can – and you explained what you’re using for your assessment – what is that assessment when you put it all together? Was the United States effective last year in fighting terrorism?
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: I think we have been effective in building the capability of our partners globally in a variety of regions and places. You can chart that in a variety of ways. We’ve seen a number of efforts just specific to, for example, foreign terrorist fighters. A number of countries have enacted rule-of-law frameworks, legal frameworks to deal with some of those issues in ways they had not previously done. They’ve upped their efforts on border security and information sharing. We’ve concluded information-sharing agreements with a whole host of countries that we find very compelling. We continue to urge them to do more in that respect. On terrorist finance, we’ve seen efforts by a variety of countries to not only locate where that sourcing of funding is coming from, but to shut some of that down. So yeah, I think we have made progress. I don’t want to, again, portray for you that there isn’t plenty left to be done. There certainly is.
QUESTION: Lesley Wroughton from Reuters. Do you believe that Islamic State is now a bigger terrorist threat than al-Qaida? Number one. Number two, could you just talk a little bit about the rise of terrorism? And you spoke about Nigeria and Africa. Specifically looking at Africa, is that one of the biggest areas where these new terrorism groups are kind of finding ground?
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Right. To address your first question on sort of ISIL and its relative importance or strength as opposed to other groups, it’s a little hard to make those comparisons and I don’t necessarily want to make it because I think we have concerns about a variety of groups. We continue to have, as I framed, real concerns about AQ, about al-Qaida and some of its affiliates. I would point especially to the affiliate in Yemen and the so-called AQAP, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Their capabilities are still strong. We are continuing to track that. We have grave concerns about what they plan, and we keep a very, very sharp eye on that. You’ve seen us continue to do some things as a function of U.S. policy in order to protect the American public, but I think there’s a set of concerns that still concern us very much on the AQ side.
With respect to ISIL, I mean, I laid out for you, I think, all of the things that we’ve seen, particularly in the course of 2014, that concerned us. I won’t rehash all of that, but there is good reason to be concerned there as well, as well as the fact that some affiliates in other places in the world have now specifically aligned themselves. To what extent that has meaning, we can have that discussion. But nevertheless, that they’ve – there’s a continued appeal of ISIS, or ISIL, globally.
So both of them cause us concerns, I think, in different ways and in different respects, but I don’t think we want to take our eye off the ball on either of those cases.
With respect to your second question:, I think there are places in the world that we particularly would frame. I mentioned a few of them in my remarks. Certainly in Africa – not exclusively so but certainly in Africa there are places and groups that we concern ourselves with. Boko Haram is one of them in West Africa, Shabaab in East Africa. We’ve made some gains against Shabaab – not just we, but our partners. Again, AMISOM acting on the ground in Somalia. Our partners in Somalia have done quite a bit in terms of state building, which is an essential component of pushing back on extremism. Other neighbors who have seen attacks go up in the last little while – Kenya, others – we’re supportive of their efforts to try and address some of that. And we’ve also seen groups in the Maghreb and the Sahel, so in the northern part of Africa, that concern us and continue to concern us.
So yes, that’s one of the areas, not the only one exclusively.
MR TONER: Indira.
QUESTION: Thanks. Indira Lakshmanan from Bloomberg News. You have a section in the report, as you do every year, on Iran as a state sponsor of terror, and Iran has been on this list for more than 30 years.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Yeah.
QUESTION: So you don’t indicate in the report whether Iran’s terrorist activities increased or decreased in the last year. Can you give us some indication on that? And what is the Administration, or you in your advisory capacity for the Administration, going to say to those critics who say, why should you be signing a nuclear agreement with Iran when they are a state sponsor of terrorism and could use sanctions relief to further their terrorist activities?
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Right. The report doesn’t necessarily talk about numbers of attacks that are either inspired by or supported by specific countries in all cases. I think it would be hard to make an exact calculus of the kinds of numbers that I think you’re talking about with respect to Iran. But we continue to be very, very concerned about IRGC activity as well as proxies that act on behalf of Iran. I mentioned a few of them earlier in my comments, including Hezbollah and some of the other groups. We watch that extremely carefully.
I don’t want to talk too much here about the nuclear negotiations and all of that. I think we’ve been very clear that that we consider important. It has a context – a specific context. We think it’s essential that we pursue those negotiations. But that said, none of that implies that we would be, again, in any way taking our eye off the ball with respect to what Iran is doing as a supporter of terrorism. We have sanctions in place against Iran specifically related to the terrorism issue. That’s not going to change. So again, I would just feature that as a going concern and it’s not going to change as a function of the nuclear discussions that we have with them.
QUESTION: So you can assure us that the IRGC won’t be taken off any sanctions list as part of --
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: It’s not being contemplated, no. Uh-uh.
QUESTION: -- the nuclear – it’s not being contemplated? And IRGC entities will not be taken off the sanctions list?
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: No.
QUESTION: That includes the National Iranian Oil Company?
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: What I just said was what I said, which is we’re not going to remove any of the sanctions that are related to terrorism because, again, those concerns persist.
MR TONER: Elise.
QUESTION: Hi, Tina. I want to follow up on Indira’s question, and then I have another question. While you don’t want to talk about specific numbers and also your ongoing concern about Iran, clear it does suggest in the report that Shiite militias tied to Iran in Iraq have – you’ve seen a kind of decrease or lessening of specific targeting of U.S. personnel on the ground. And I’m wondering if that’s because you think that ISIL is the bigger enemy, or do you think that Iran has made more of a deliberate choice to – given the negotiations, given a little bit of an improving in relations, has decided to kind of look away from targeting the United States.
And then can you expand on the idea where you said that – the idea that it’s proliferation of sympathizers to ISIL, whether it’s affiliates or just, like, groups that aspire to be like ISIS – how you think that is a new era. Because does it matter if they’re having command and control and money, or is – or are you seeing that some of these lone wolf attacks that don’t require a lot of money, a lot of command and control, and could be anywhere in the world are more dangerous? It seems like it – maybe it doesn’t matter if they’re an official affiliate, unless it matters about how you go after them.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: So, Elise, I think on the first part of your question – I mean, again, I don’t want to comment too much here, and I’d refer you back both to DOD and to my NEA colleagues here about the specifics of kind of what they see on the ground in Iraq in a military sense and why the Shiite militias may or may not be taking action against our troops. It’s – the political situation there as well as the situation on the – the military situation on the ground is very complex.
What I will say, though, just generally with respect to ISIL and more to your second question, is I think, again, we are – we’re concerned and we continue to watch very carefully and analyze and assess the impact of ISIL creating these affiliations, if you will. And I don’t even know if they’re creating them so much as some of the affiliates are self-identifying. What the impact of that is or what the import of it is is different, I think, in each case. And you want to look at it against the specific regional or political circumstances that you see in each instance. They’ve had affiliates declare in both Libya and Egypt and other places in the world. I will say again I think that the – it’s a little hard to assess in early days still about the level of back-and-forth between sort of the center of ISIL – the core of ISIL, if you will – and some of these affiliates.
But that said, it’s of concern. It’s something that we’re watching. There are places where obviously we would like to see – in Libya, for example – a political process underway so that we have a national unity government, that there is a state formation process in place. That would push back on extremism writ large, not just the ISIL component. But that’s an essential part of what they have to undertake.
QUESTION: But when you look at these kind of smaller groups that aren’t maybe necessarily groups, but even like four or five guys, I mean, that must be harder to go after.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Well, I mean, again, we pointed – and I mentioned in my comments the fact it’s harder for international – because we’ve undertaken a number of the efforts I spoke of to share information with other countries, to up the quotient of border security elements, it’s harder for them to get around. So you don’t see as much of international terrorists traveling from place to place. They still do it, we still watch it; it’s very much tracked, and for that you can talk more, of course, to the domestic security agencies.
But I think the real question is how do they mobilize in a new environment for things that they can do that are spectacular, that show some momentum. And one of the ways that they’ve chosen to do this is through these lone wolf attacks. And they are successfully able sometimes to use social media, other means to encourage or inspire those attacks.
MR TONER: Michael.
QUESTION: I just have a very quick point of clarification, please.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Sure.
QUESTION: In your discussion on Iran, you mentioned a array of activities in the report, also including the provision of substantial military support to Bashar al-Assad in the facilitating of Shia fighters from Iraq and even Afghanistan to help the regime there. The report cuts off in December, but I gather from media reports and from your remarks that there is nothing in Iran’s activity since then that would ameliorate your concerns on this score, that this still is an ongoing concern of yours, including with their support to Assad.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: We watch a variety of things, and certainly their support and their proxy support via Hizballah to the Assad regime is of concern to us, yes.
MR TONER: James.
QUESTION: Ambassador, first I just had a quick kind of housekeeping matter, and then I wanted to proceed to my main question. In your opening remarks, you emphasized that the University of Maryland numbers were not an official government product. (A) Did the United States Government contribute or somehow have input into the University of Maryland’s statistical conclusions?
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: They do it according to criteria that they lay out. We utilize it because it’s helpful to us and it’s mandated by the report – statutorily it’s mandated that we have the annex. And it does provide a good sense of the trends. But no, we don’t shape the way that they do that.
QUESTION: And you have no reason to challenge the statistical conclusions of the University of Maryland?
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Not necessarily, no. Just – I mean, again, their emphasis is a little different than ours.
QUESTION: Also in your opening remarks, you emphasized that those rather distressing numbers from the University of Maryland did not provide, as you call it, the full context of the American counterterrorism mission right now. And you also said that some of the conclusions didn’t – weren’t based on the most useful metrics. And so what I’d like to do is just run through a couple of quick metrics which I think does provide a fuller context, and then in a specific way ask you to comment if you would.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Sure.
QUESTION: First, most obviously, there is, since this President took office – and at which point, as he acknowledged in his G7 news conference in Germany last week, AQI had been defeated – the rise of ISIS, which has captured roughly half of Syria and Iraq and has spread perhaps to as many as 15 countries. The RAND Corporation has reported that between 2010 and 2013, there was a 58 percent rise in the number of Salafi jihadists groups and a doubling of the number of Salafi jihadist fighters. And then lastly, we see almost uniformly throughout the region a greater influence on the part of Iran, which you describe as the leading sponsor of state terrorism, most notably in Yemen, which the President had declared a counterterrorism success. And perhaps lastly it’s worth noting that 75 percent of the nuclear centrifuges installed by Iran, this great state sponsor of terrorism, occurred under this President’s watch.
Considering all of these objective metrics, how do you see a record of competence or success for this President in the area of counterterrorism?
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Well, I think I already actually addressed that question. I mean, I think we’ve --
QUESTION: You didn’t address my metrics which I just provided.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Well, again – I mean, they’re your metrics. They’re interesting --
QUESTION: Actually, the RAND Corporation’s metrics, so let’s proceed.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Well, let’s just – again, I’ll frame it the way that I framed it before. I think the issue here is really what have we seen on the part of countries to take up the challenge of counterterrorism writ large. It’s not something we can do by ourselves. We clearly have to talk to our partners in terms of bringing all of the methodologies to bear that we possibly can. I believe that we have done that; we continue to do that; and they are, in fact, responding. That’s pretty clear to me. They’re doing it through the military coalition with respect to ISIL. They’re doing it through a variety of other means: counterfinance, counter-information-sharing. As I said, there’s an array of efforts ongoing, all of which are more robust over time; all of which they are very vested in, as we are, of course. We bring our expertise, our funding, our support to bear in a variety of places all over the globe – the ones you mentioned included.
I think by any standard that you set, you can look at that and you can say that we have made progress. Have we done everything that can be done in order to push back on these groups? Clearly not.
QUESTION: How do you regard a spread in ISIS’s influence, a spread in Iran’s influence, rises in the numbers of attacks and fatalities – how do you regard that as a success? Where are we gaining ground instead of losing ground? Tell me where.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: I mean, it’s a very broad question. And again, it goes well beyond the questions that I’m engaged in with, which are specific to the terrorist quotient, but --
QUESTION: You keep talking about inputs and I’m asking about the outputs, the outcomes.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Right, well, again, I’ve answered the question. If that’s not satisfactory, then we can have a conversation offline about other issues, but that’s what I would say.
MR TONER: Roz.
QUESTION: Ambassador Kaidanow, thanks for doing this briefing. I wanted to narrow Elise’s question about foreign fighters and so-called lone wolves, looking specifically at the lone wolf question. We saw the hostage-taking in Sydney, we saw the attacks in Canada last year. What can be done effectively to find someone who isn’t affiliated with any particular group and prevent that person from carrying out an attack under this guise of al-Qaida or ISIL or al-Shabaab or whatever? How do we stop that? Or is that just a risk of modern life that we have to accept?
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Well, I mean, any risk can be mitigated to an extent. It can’t fully mitigated; that’s probably clear. But there are things I think that can be done. First of all, I’d encourage you to talk to the domestic homeland agencies that are really very engaged in that in the U.S. context, certainly. And they’re doing a variety of things, some of which, let me just say, are not specifically security oriented. Obviously, there has to be a variety of efforts to monitor, to try and fix on individuals that we know are of concern. That’s clear. But also what you want to do is identify early in that cycle people who might be vulnerable to that kind of approach. That’s here and that’s overseas as well.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: And that’s another aspect of enabling our partners that I think is quite important that we’re engaged in a very full conversation about. So you want to be engaged – as a number of, by the way, U.S. communities have very good experience with, and at that summit that I referenced earlier, we brought a number of stakeholders from overseas to talk to representatives of our cities – Minneapolis, Los Angeles, other places – where they’ve experienced these problems. And they have a body now of kind of very good skillsets that they can bring to bear to get into those communities, build trust, and then try and identify early where you may run into these problems. So it’s – it really has to be in a variety of efforts, and sometimes it’s even de-radicalization. You have individuals who may already have trended in that direction. How do you bring them back into a productive relationship with the community? So it’s a pretty broad span of things that you need to address, and frankly, we’re engaged in all of those things.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR TONER: A few more questions. Said, you’ve been waiting.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you for doing this. My name’s Said Arikat.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Hi, Said.
QUESTION: I have a quick question for you. You mentioned Hamas. Now there are reports that Hamas is conducting talks with Israel for a long-term truce. If that occurs, would that help take it out of the list? And my second quick question: Who is the one country that is most responsible for allowing foreign fighters to go into Syria?
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Okay. On the first question, I really – it gets beyond my particular expertise, because it’s so much related to the political process. So I’m going to leave that to the NEA folks to give you a better answer.
On the second part, look, this is a problem that we have seen – the flow of terrorist fighters is a multifaceted problem. And we’ve been engaged now, by bureau particularly for quite a while now on this problem. You see it from a variety of source countries; you see it from a – and not just in one region, but globally. Again, the numbers have gone up, in part because we’re better at sort of counting, and we’re paying a lot of attention to it – in part, though, because they’re going. And we’ve seen it happen, again, not just in one region, but in a variety of regions. So there’s a whole array of source countries; there are a number of transit countries; and then there are final destinations as well.
I will tell you that I truly believe that countries along that continuum have actually made some significant efforts. Is there more to be done? Oh yes. I would frame a couple of things that, again, we are trying very much to do. I’ve already mentioned them, but information sharing is a big part of this. We have to ensure that we and other countries are doing as much as we possibly can to share what we know, essentially, about who these people are, where they’re going, and where they’ve been, and that kind of thing. We also have to encourage them to do more to ensure that their borders are as secure as possible. That’s a big part, obviously, of not having people move too freely. And you want to know who’s crossing your borders. That’s a big part of it. We also want to be able to ensure, obviously, that – I talked a little bit about it just now – that we can counter-message – so stop the folks that are trying to get there in the first place from ever considering going, which is quite important and more challenging, again, in an environment where social media is frequently used and so forth. And then, beyond that, again, once they are there, we have to, again, do what we need to do both on the battlefield and elsewhere. And that’s where the anti-ISIL coalition comes in, as well as, again, the variety of efforts of counterterrorism finance, all the other things that I spoke of.
So it’s a very, very layered, very textured approach, but all of that needs to take place. And we’re working on all those things.
MR TONER: A couple more questions. Josh.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. A couple of quick follow-up questions on Iran. I understand that the numbers are not the leading indicator, and it’s tough to use numbers to draw conclusions. But as I read your section of the report on state sponsors of terrorism, there are several instances of Iran working to expand its exporting of terrorism in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Is it fair to say that in 2014, Iran worked to increased its export of terrorism?
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: What I will tell you is that we’re very engaged in efforts to make sure that we are doing everything we possibly can – in tandem, again, with partners – to undermine, undercut the efforts that both Iran and its proxies are undertaking to do a number of activities – licit, but also illicit – that support that the terrorist effort.
QUESTION: I understand --
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- but my question is: From your reporting --
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Yes.
QUESTION: -- is it fair to conclude from this very clear reporting that Iran worked to expand its exportation --
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: I will say that they are continuing their pursuit of these activities. And, again, whether it’s expanding, not expanding – that’s a little harder to judge, but the point is they’re still doing it, we’re still concerned.
QUESTION: Okay. Second thing is, as I look at the state sponsors of terrorism, it seems clear to me – tell me if I’m right or wrong – that Iran is the – compared to the other state sponsors of terrorism, the leading state sponsor of terrorism; that the preponderance, scope, scale of their activities range – you name it, any indicator that you’ve studied – is qualitatively and quantitatively more than Syria, Cuba, Sudan.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Well, again, I mean --
QUESTION: Is that right?
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: -- the state sponsor of terrorism designation – so I have to be a little bit careful in defining all of this – is a statutory one. So in other words, we have a definition that we hew to when we look at who is a state sponsor of terrorism, and we have to make that assessment. That’s not a leading or a not leading or a who’s more or a who’s – they are state sponsors of terrorism, we have designated them as such, and we continue to have those concerns. And that’s – I think that’s --
QUESTION: But in your professional opinion, is Iran doing it more than --
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Again, that’s what I would say.
MR TONER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Ambassador, thank you very much. My name is Wada, I’m with Japan’s Mainichi newspaper. In the – the report refers to some governments doing some counterproductive things under the name of addressing terrorism, like repressing political opponents, stuff like that. And in the China section, you also mention some policies the Chinese Government is taking to exacerbate ethnic tensions in Xinjiang. What do you think is the trend in China of this kind of activity, doing some political oppression under the name of counterterrorism?
And also, a second a question about the situation in Southeast Asia. In countries like Indonesia or Malaysia, the Philippines, how do you see the growth of ISIL affiliated or movements which are sending some foreign fighters to Syria and Europe?
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Well, the first part of your question, with respect to China, I think we see China as an important partner for us in many ways on counterterrorism. We’re engaged in a dialogue with them. I will probably go to China later this year to have a conversation with them. They have their concerns about the activities of groups within China that have carried out attacks. We condemn terrorism in any form as long as we have enough evidence to say that indeed something is a terrorist attack. Oftentimes, though, we see governments characterize something as a terrorist attack; we either don’t have enough evidence to make that assessment, or, again, we would characterize the effort that they’re making against it as perhaps counterproductive in and of itself because it may encourage extremism, particularly if it’s not human rights-based, if it’s not democratically inclusive.
So I think we have a robust conversation with the Chinese on those issues. What I would say, though, is the specific organization that they’re concerned with – ETIM – we, back in 2002, we actually designated as a specially designated global terrorist organization. So we understand their concerns, but again, we’ve expressed to them pretty clearly our feeling that they could do more themselves to lessen that threat, not simply through security means but through other, and perhaps productive, means like human rights concerns and so forth.
And I’m sorry, the second part of your question was?
QUESTION: Second – the situation in Southeast Asia.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Oh, Southeast Asia. Yeah, we’ve seen – I mean, those countries themselves – Indonesia, Malaysia, others – we have a very good, robust conversation with them as well. They have evinced their own concerns about some of the extremism problems that they’re seeing pop up. ISIL has self-declared, again, affiliates in various places. But again, how meaningful that is, we continue to assess it. I don’t want to characterize it in any specific way. I just will say we’re continuing to work with them very closely on our counterterrorism approach writ large.
MR TONER: Last two questions. Warren and then --
QUESTION: Yeah, Warren Strobel with Reuters. As far – a quick follow-up question on the self-proclaimed Islamic State affiliates.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Sure.
QUESTION: Of the ones that are out there, are there one or two that concern you the most because they’re either the most potent, or the ground seems the most fertile, or they seem to have some sort of operational ties with ISIL? I’m thinking particularly of Libya or Afghanistan, but maybe you have others.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Yeah, I mean, well, I guess what I would say is, look, again, we’re continuing to look at the range of these. But the activity in Libya is of concern. I mean, it’s spawned local skirmishes. It’s clear that there are ISIL affiliates that really have been probably ISIL affiliates for longer there than some other places. Again, I would frame for you that each of these affiliates needs to be looked at in the specific context of what we’re seeing on the ground in that place, and I would make the strong case to you that again, in Libya, really what needs to happen is not only an effort against ISIL per se – AQ is a factor in that particular space as well – but really, truly, we need a political process that will lead ultimately to the formation of a national unity government. Without that, and without some basis for further, again, formation of a state and something that provides a core for our efforts – and not just our efforts but Libyan efforts – it’s just a place that’s going to lend itself to the growth of more extremism.
So – and we’re trying to make the stakeholders there understand that we’re very supportive of the UN effort under Bernardino Leon. We’re going to continue to support that effort strongly. And again, I think that’s the – that’s basically the precursor for everything is stability and political inclusiveness. To the extent you have that, you have much less of a larger problem on the CT front.
MR TONER: Last question.
QUESTION: Yes, Madam. Now --
MR TONER: No, no. Sorry.
QUESTION: Thank you. Sonia Schott, Diario Las Americas. Cuba is not in the report, but Venezuela. And at the very beginning, you mentioned that Venezuela failed to held account this governmental official involved or assumingly involved in drug trafficking activities with the Colombian cartels. But at the very end, you mentioned also that Venezuela is part of the peace process with the Colombian guerrilla in Cuba. So what is Venezuela? It is cooperating? It’s not since Venezuela start a dialogue, a bilateral dialogue with the U.S.? Is this part of the issues you are going to talk to the Venezuelan Government? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Well, as you know, we do have an ongoing set of discussions with the Venezuelan Government. I really don’t want to get into the back-and-forth of the politics of Venezuela here, but from the anti-terrorism front I will say that Venezuela is a country that we have persistently been watching. And we do every year – and we have again this last year – we class them as a country that is not cooperating fully with our anti-terror efforts. So that’s our assessment, and we’d like to see changes in that so that we can have that further conversation.
QUESTION: But since you mentioned that Venezuela’s part of these peace dialogues, it’s something that –
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: I’m not going to get into the back-and-forth of that. But that’s our perspective, and we’ve made it clear in the report.
MR TONER: Thanks, guys. Thanks, everyone.