Ambassador Munter's Remarks at CIED National Strategy Seminar
November 25, 2010
Thank you Secretary Zaman, colleagues, and friends. I am delighted to follow such distinguished speakers - Minister Malik, General Wahid, and General Sir David Richards. My special thanks to Minister Malik for convening this gathering. It brings us together to discuss how we can deter the acts of terrorists who threaten us all - in Pakistan, the United States, and around the world.
Secretary Zaman has asked me to say something about the prosecutorial and legislative challenges posed by IEDs and home-made explosives, and I'm happy to do that. In addition, I would like to take the opportunity of this Seminar to pledge America's assistance to you. We are already working together in many areas to confront this threat, and there will be opportunities for us to do much more.
Americans, like Pakistanis, know all too well the toll caused by IEDs and home-made explosives. And we know how easy - and cheap - it can be for terrorists to wreak death and destruction. We have not suffered as many attacks as you have - but we too have been devastated by a terrible bomb.
I am talking about the Oklahoma City bombing. On April 19, 1995, an American citizen used an improvised explosive device made from nitro-methane, common diesel fuel, and five hundred dollars worth of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, to murder 168 people, 19 of them children under the age of 6, injure 600 and cause over half a billion dollars in damage.
When this deadly act of domestic terror struck our heartland, we were taken unawares. Still, we rallied. Our law enforcement responded with the largest and most complex investigation in American history. Our prosecutors systematically built an overwhelming case the bombers, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Our courts ensured a fair trial. In the end, the attackers were convicted.
Since that tragic day, our police and prosecutors have prevented similar bombings. In fact, they have stopped dozens of domestic bombing plots and have successfully prosecuted the conspirators. Increased cooperation between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and with the private sector made this possible.
IED threat in the region
Pakistan and this region face a deadly threat. As everyone here knows, IEDs are the leading cause of violent death and injury for civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as for our soldiers serving in those countries.
But as you and I both know, the threat is equally dire in Pakistan. In 2010, there were about 3,700 Pakistani civilian causalities from IEDs and home-made explosives - road-side bombs, car bombs, suicide bombs. This nearly equals the numbers for Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The wide availability of explosive precursors such as ammonium nitrate has made these attacks much easier to carry out.
The United States government cares deeply about this issue. In Congress, Senator Robert Casey from Pennsylvania, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Near East and South and Central Asia in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, regularly holds hearings on countering the IED-threat.
Just last week, his committee focused how we can all work together in the South Asia region to stem the flow of ammonium nitrate to terrorists. In the executive branch, all departments and agencies - State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, and others - are committed to assist in the regional counter-IED effort.
US assistance to Pakistan
As part of those efforts, we have supported Pakistan's participation in Operation Global Shield, a World Customs Organization effort to track and interdict the illicit shipment of ammonium nitrate and other IED precursors. Next week, together with the United Nations, we are sponsoring the initial Global Shield IED training for Pakistani Customs in Karachi. We stand ready to provide any additional training needed to make Pakistan's participation in Operation Global Shield a complete success.
On this note, I want to personally thank the Pakistan Army for making your EOD experts available to deliver this training. I hope this will be the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership between military and civilian colleagues on this effort.
Yet customs training is only a small part of our multi-pronged assistance to your government. With our support, Pakistani police and military officers, some of whom are with us here today, have received counter-IED training, both here and abroad: from introductory first responder courses taught as part of basic police training all the way to the most sophisticated EOD training at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The FBI crime lab has analyzed post-blast material for you and stands ready to do so again. We are also providing funding, equipment and technical assistance to bring enhanced forensic capabilities to the crime laboratories of Pakistan.
Well-equipped crime labs are important, but they are not enough. Pakistani prosecutors and judges must understand forensic evidence. We are prepared to share our best practices with your prosecutors to help put these terrorists behind bars.
Changes and challenges afterwards
We learned a lot from the Oklahoma City bombings. This attack exposed the challenges we all face as members of a free society. We successfully prosecuted the McVeigh/Nichols conspiracy, but tragically only after the blast.
The materials McVeigh and Nichols used in the bomb - the ammonium nitrate, the nitromethane, the blasting caps - all are dual-use. It would be impossible to simply outlaw anything that could be used in a bomb - and we recognized that. Moreover, we saw on 9/11 that increased building security alone won't stop innovative terrorists. But security measures and - especially - better regulations do help.
In defeating the recent terrorist bombing plots, our police worked diligently to develop leads and penetrate the criminal networks, while prosecutors convicted the conspirators. The U.S. Congress and the individual states have steadily enhanced our regulatory regime for explosive precursors, especially ammonium nitrate.
Strong laws and regulations, good police and prosecutors and effective courts have been the keys to our success.
I acknowledge that our two countries face different realities. The IED attacks in Pakistan are generally smaller but more frequent - hundreds in the last year alone. The U.S., on the other hand, prosecuted a single mass-casualty domestic terrorist attack in the 1990s. Still, I think we have learned some lessons that might be helpful for you. In particular, I want to talk about how changes to the legal and prosecutorial framework could make it easier to stop these attacks before they occur. And if they do, tragically, occur, how you can arrest, prosecute, and convict the criminals who committed them.
Suggestions for Pakistanis
First, I urge the Pakistani Parliament to move the Anti-Terrorism Amendment Bill forward with all due speed. The Bill is an important tool in fighting terrorism.
Specifically with regard to IEDs, the ATA could be further strengthened with additional language expanding the powers of law enforcement and civil regulators over explosives and their precursors, such as ammonium nitrate and commercial explosives. An enhanced legal regime is the first step in successfully defeating the network.
Second, criminal laws and procedures could be amended to allow all forms of scientific forensic evidence to be used in criminal proceedings. Without the tools to introduce such evidence before a court, prosecutors cannot use it to convict these criminals. A vigorous legal regime is the foundation of a sound prosecution.
Third, additional capacity building is required to effectively enforce the law. Judges, prosecutors, and front-line police investigators need more training in forensics. As prosecutors become more successful, both in pre-blast conspiracy cases and in post-blast murder cases, confidence in the system will increase.
Finally, all the elements working for a safer Pakistan - law enforcement, military, intelligence, prosecutors, industry and, most importantly, society at large - must work together to defeat IEDs and terrorism. No single organization can defeat the IED threat alone.
I want to again thank Minister Malik. Under his leadership, the Interior Ministry is bringing together all the relevant players under the National Counter IED Forum. He is setting an example of how we must all work together to defeat this threat.
So I urge everyone here: please don't think you need to wait until after an attack occurs and dozens or hundreds are killed or maimed. You can put these violent people behind bars before they carry out their plans. Only the full force of the law will end this barbarism. My country stands hand-in-hand with our Pakistani partners, ready to help in any way.
Thank you for listening. This event is proof of how seriously Pakistan is taking the threat of IEDs. I look forward to reading your new National Counter-IED Strategy soon.