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Five Years After 9/11: U.S. Diplomat Charts Progress Of War On Terror

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Colleen Graffy at RFE/RL's Prague broadcasting center on September 8 (RFE/RL) PRAGUE, September 8, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Colleen Graffy visited RFE/RL headquarters in Prague ahead of the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States. She spoke with RFE/RL correspondent Eugene Tomiuc.

RFE/RL: Could you highlight the main successes of the 5-year-old war on terror?

Colleen Graffy: One of the most urgent needs in fighting the war on terror is to ensure that there are no failed states. Failed states lend themselves to the opportunity for terrorists to take hold and to have training camps, and to not only embolden themselves but export terrorism to other countries. So one of our first successes was in transforming Afghanistan from a failed state to where we're working now with the [Afghan] people and the government to bring it to a democracy. Other successes include rounding up the key leaders of Al-Qaeda and associates and also in cutting of the financial contributions that are the power behind terrorism, able to transfer funds internationally to be able to close down access to funding and to stop it from coming in. Very important.

RFE/RL: What are the challenges and priorities for U.S. foreign policy in the future in order to consolidate those gains?

Graffy: The challenges and priorities are to ensure that all countries are working together to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, to prevent them from getting into the hands of terrorists. Our challenges include the sharing of information, that we are working together to be aware of movements of terrorists, that we are able to identify them, and we are able to have intelligence as to potential plots. And we have seen some great successes in recent weeks both in Denmark and in the U.K., and we have to remain ever vigilant in preventing future attacks.

RFE/RL: Do you think the West’s giving more power to enforcement agencies gives other, more repressive states an excuse to put into effect more restrictive policies against their opposition parties. Is that a danger?

Graffy: As we try to contain and fight terrorism, we have to recognize that all enforcement agencies need to act in a transparent way which is scrutinized by different democratic processes. Just look at the United States. Every aspect of the fight against terrorism has been looked at and examined and debated and questioned in an open, transparent forum, in Congress -- in the Senate, in the House -- before committees, in think tanks, at conferences, on television shows, and -- of course, most particularly -- in our U.S. judicial system. So, that is the important aspect of it, to ensure that there is within our balance of power in a democratic system, that there is open, transparent examination of what enforcement mechanisms a democracy chooses to use.

RFE/RL: Terrorists and especially Al-Qaeda have shown surprising skills when it comes to using modern communication media such as audio or videotapes and the Internet to their own advantage. Is the war on terror also a public-relations war? Is the Western media prepared for such a war?

Graffy: I do think that it is a fight for the hearts and minds, as they say. And Al-Qaeda and associates are clearly using modern technology, by using the Internet, by using videotapes. And, yes, I do think that we can equally match that, but it requires us to act swiftly, to also use not only modern technology but person-to-person contacts, through exchange programs, through dialogue, through encouraging training of moderate imams, through showing that Islam is a peaceful religion and that to try and change it into something where people cannot have the freedom of expression or assembly, where little girls can't go to school -- this is the direction that I don't think any civilized country wants to take. So I think reaching out through modern technology, but also making the clear, plain argument of the future that terrorists see for us -- think of Afghanistan and the Taliban days -- and the future that we want, which is health and security and freedom to express ourselves and freedom of religion.

RFE/RL: What is the role of public diplomacy in helping Western democracies to successfully fight an asymmetric conflict such as the war on terror?

Graffy: It takes different forms, surprisingly different forms. Public diplomacy is not only reaching out through the media to the publics of other countries, but it's also reaching out through sports diplomacy, through cultural diplomacy, through bringing over poets and authors, of playing basketball, for example, as a means of integrating immigrants into the society, where it's not just about the sport of basketball, which is a favorite in many countries, it is also about building teamsmanship, and ethics, and integration. So, there are surprising ways that public diplomacy can work. And the most effective of all, of course, is exchanges. And in many countries we have exchange programs where students come over for a work and summer travel program and person-to-person contacts can really be the most effective way of reaching out to publics.

War On Terror

War On Terror


An archive of RFE/RL's coverage of the global war on terror.