Michael Chertoff, a former secretary of US Homeland Security, who led efforts to revamp US security after 9/11, has said India faces the challenge of transforming its bureaucracy to build a competent security apparatus capable of defeating terror threats in the wake of 26/11 Mumbai strikes.
Chertoff told HT, “It is harder for India to secure itself as it’s located close to terrorist havens in Pakistan and Afghanistan. You also have to guard against terror threats from the seas… you are not too far from Somalia. This puts additional burden on the security machinery. The US is somewhat cushioned against maritime terror by the Pacific Ocean.”
He said US had continued to work on institutional changes in the security to prevent terrorists. “It can be difficult to break bureaucratic routines. There was resistance to institutional changes in the US, post 9/11. We have seen cases of security agencies backsliding.”
We made it harder for terrorists
Asked how US had avoided any major terror strikes after the 9/11, he said, “We took a multi-layered defence approach, realising that a single strategy could fail. We now have back-up plans...we also made it harder for people to enter the country.”
Chertoff is credited with authoring the USA PATRIOT ACT (an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act) that created new penalties and procedural to deal with terrorism.
He said invasion of Afghanistan had contributed to the US. “There would have been deadlier terror strikes had we not gone … No one can guarantee there will be no terror attacks…”
Hang on in Afghanistan
Chertoff said the US shouldn’t fix a timeline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. He endorsed US President Barack Obama's decision to send 30,000 more troops, but cautioned against bringing units home in 18 months. “If the other side is patient, they will wear us out. If Taliban were to regain control, the US would be worse off... You are in a war until it's over.”
Pakistan must act
He asked Pakistan to take strong action against terror groups operating from its soil. “It is important for Pakistan.. to take action against terrorists… not for anyone else but for its own sake.”