The United States and Turkey are launching a new effort to combat terrorism in countries emerging from authoritarian rule in the wake of the Arab Spring, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday.
The new effort, dubbed the Global Counterterrorism Forum, will bring together "traditional allies, emerging powers and Muslim-majority countries," Clinton said in a speech in New York.
The effort brings together the US, Turkey and the European Union, joined by 27 countries including Algeria, Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and will be launched in the coming weeks on the sidelines of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly meetings, according to a State Department statement released after Clinton's speech.
The forum appears to be an outgrowth of worries in the US, Turkey and elsewhere about the possibility of Islamist militants gaining footholds in countries like Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, which have swept aside repressive regimes. Clinton said that the US and Turkey will serve as founding co-chairs of the global forum.
The announcement comes just two days before the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
Late Thursday, US officials warned of "specific, credible but unconfirmed" terrorist threats around the anniversary events. On Friday morning, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the information about the threat was "not corroborated, not confirmed" and said no changes have been made in US President Barack Obama'splans for Sunday, when the US commemorates the terrorist strikes against New York and Washington, which killed nearly 3,000 people.
The new counterterrorism forum will have more teeth than the UN Counterterrorism panel that was set up after 9/11 to maintain a list of terrorist suspects supplied by individual countries and a watch over funding of al-Qaeda and other terrorist initiatives.
Instead, the forum will work directly with countries that are transitioning from authoritarian rule to democracy to "identify threats and weaknesses ... mobilize resources ... and help countries address terrorist threats within their own borders," Clinton said. The forum will help countries write counterterrorism legislation and train police.
Some of the authoritarian governments toppled in the Arab Spring had been supported by Washington in exchange for their collaboration against terrorists, which provoked criticism among supporters of reform within those countries.
In some cases, by necessity, we are working with nations with whom we have very little in common except for the desire to defeat al-Qaida," Clinton said.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country has taken a higher profile in the Middle East with its ongoing feud with Israel, is expected to make his first appearance at the UN General Assembly in the coming weeks.
US President Barack Obama will be in New York during the General Assembly and is expected to attend a September 19 symposium on counterterrorism sponsored by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
There was no date given for the formal launch ceremony, which will be chaired by Turkey and the United States during the General Assembly, a State Department official said. It was not clear if Erdogan and Obama would attend the launch.
The new forum, which is to work closely with the United Nations, is "based on a recognition that the US alone cannot eliminate every terrorist or terrorist organization," according to the official statement.
It will take a "strategic approach" to civilian counterterrorism work and help "increase the number of countries" with the political will and technology to combat terrorism, the statement said.