Sputnik has discussed the Pentagon's program and the fight against terrorism with Larry Johnson retired CIA intelligence officer and State Department official.
Sputnik: Why did this program fail in more than half of its cases, which is a lot, did it manage to achieve anything?
Larry Johnson: I have not read the report, so I don't know what criteria they were using to judge it by. I think all we can do is look at the objective fact which is that the number of terrorist incidents over the last 15 years have increased not diminished. This all rests on the premise that the failure prior to 2001 was that the criticism was leveled that the United States was fighting terrorism as a police action and the critics insisted that you need to fight it as a military operation.
Well, we've now had since 2001 ample evidence of military involvement in combating terrorism and you can see that instead of diminishing it, eliminating it, it has actually in some aspects made it worse. So I think this notion of just throwing money into the Pentagon and then having special forces and special operations forces go about training foreign training forces doesn't really address what may be the root of the terrorist activity.
Sputnik: Do you think the figures could be higher in reality?
Larry Johnson: When they talk about it as a program I'm not even sure what they referring to because what you're discussing is if the militaries involved and it is usually special forces or special operations forces that are involved in training and you're talking about training military units for small unit tactics, and so what are they saying, that after the training there were worse shots than before? After the training, they were less capable of preparing and conducting operations against an intended target?
Because the vast majority of the terrorist attacks are carried out by Sunni groups, many of whom had support from people that are in Saudi Arabia, for example. So we have this great disconnect and I think there is a fundamental problem with talking about terrorism truthfully and accurately.
Sputnik: One wonders why Syria was not included in the study?
Larry Johnson: Because the United States was supporting terrorist groups in Syria. That's the real irony in all of this. In 2001 when the United States was attacked by al-Qaeda and we find ourselves now supporting groups that are the ideological descendants of al-Qaeda in Syria. It's just absolute insanity.
That's one of those fine discussions that need to occur in Washington DC, but basically has not been allowed because the decision has been taken to support the goals of Saudi Arabia and Israel with respect to Syria and in that regard the United States has been involved through the intelligence community as well as through some of the special operations forces providing direct support to groups that would be otherwise labeled as terrorist groups.
Sputnik: What do the GAO findings tell us about how the Pentagon, how the State Department tend to oversee such projects?
Larry Johnson: Well, the State Department is not involved in overseeing that kind of training. The anti-terrorism resistance training program that stayed overseas would be used for non-military units — for police, civilian authorities. So what you're really talking about when they're lambasting Pentagon for its failures in this training that is being directed at foreign military units, and again I don't know what the criteria was they were looking at in order to make an assessment that such training had failed or was ineffective, but I think it begs the question that military training itself is no guaranteed solution for combating terrorism.
The average American has come to believe that Syria is not a legitimate state, therefore, providing training and support to rebel groups is considered okay, and we're seeing that even that support that was provided was ineffective in shifting the battle against the government of Syria in favor of the rebels.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.