Thursday, May 3, 2007

Poor living conditions create terrorist threat

Disenfranchised populations lacking hope and self-esteem pose a significant terrorist threat to countries around the world, a top defense official said Monday.

‘‘Populations who don’t have essential services, quality of life or education — no ladder for [people] to climb out,” Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, director for strategic plans and policy for the Joint Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon.

Representatives from 64 countries who attended the fifth annual Multilateral Planner’s Conference April 25-26 in Seoul, South Korea, agreed that such abject social conditions is the number one global terrorist threat. ‘‘That came from almost all the countries in the room,” Sattler said.

Co-hosted by the U.S. and South Korea, the discussions focused on current operations and emerging security challenges around the world. The conference agenda included discussions on the war on terror and on building partnership capacity.

‘‘One of the things we challenged everyone with was to go back and take a look [their] country’s declaratory policy concerning terrorism,” Sattler said. ‘‘The beauty of it was instead of us or our normal traditional allies — the Brits, the Australians, the Canadians — we had folks like the Sri Lankans get up and talk about the problems and the challenges they face.”

Sri Lanka has lived under the threat of suicide bomb attacks longer than any other nation, Sattler said, and input from smaller countries aided a better understanding of the successful approaches in combating terrorism.

‘‘We had the Philippines get up and talk the same and a number of other small countries who have been in large, lengthy battles against an insurgency over time,” he said. ‘‘It really spurred on a lot of great discussion.”

According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Web site, the Multilateral Planner’s Conference series provides senior planners a forum to discuss operations across a spectrum of conflict, from humanitarian operations to combat operations. Such discussions allow attendees to learn from others who have faced or are facing similar challenges.

‘‘We talked about the difference between risk mitigation — taking a look at what the risk is, doing everything in your power to mitigate the risk — and then carrying out the mission based on your policy,” Sattler said.

Designed to sustain and enlarge multinational coalition efforts responding to challenges, the policy recommendations reached at the conference will be published in a reference book outlining ‘‘best practices” in fighting global threats.

‘‘There’s no one in this room that wants to lose life, limb or eyesight for anything ... not of national interest,” he said. ‘‘But, there have to be some things out there ... worth putting people at risk, because the risk of failure outweighs the risk of life, limb or eyesight.”