Military affairs beat: Resiliency key lesson in facing terrorism

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 21, 2011 - 6:45 PM

It's likely the United States will be hit again by terrorism, but not on the scale of the 9/11 attacks. And when it is, Americans should adopt the resiliency of Israel and Britain, suggests a New York Times reporter and author of a new book on Al-Qaida.

Along with colleague Thom Shanker, New York Times national security correspondent Eric Schmitt is the author of "Counterstrike," a study of how the military, intelligence, diplomatic and law enforcement communities picked themselves up and dusted themselves off following the 9/11 attacks. The book points to an unheralded group of underlings who actually laced together an effective strategy for dealing with terrorism, particularly in the latter part of the Bush administration and into the Obama presidency.

What is needed now, Schmitt said, is a "holistic" approach to identifying and countering terror networks: one that attacks leadership, finances and ideology. It is also one that requires a great deal of buy-in from local law enforcement and from local communities. That may be especially important in places like the Twin Cities, home to the largest Somali immigrant community in the country. Since the fall of 2007, at least 21 men have left Minnesota for Somalia, where authorities believe they joined the terror group Al-Shabab.

There is always a danger in exporting people to carry out attacks elsewhere in the world, Schmitt said, but another concern is that other terror organizations, such as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, might recruit them to return to carry out missions within U.S. borders.

"They might say, 'Hey, you guys have a great pipeline, but you are thinking in only one way. We're thinking two ways. Let's train these guys and send them back," Schmitt said.

Schmitt, who was born in Eden Prairie and lived in the Twin Cities until he was 7, was in town earlier this week as part of a panel sponsored by the William Mitchell School of Law National Security Forum and MPR, and to talk at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434

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