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US to Reach Out to Muslims Under New Law Reforming Intelligence System


Legislation approved by the U.S. Congress contains hundreds of pages dealing with the reorganization of the U.S. intelligence system, and improving domestic security. But missing from many headlines are steps U.S. lawmakers hope will increase cooperation with other countries in the war on terrorism, and help combat extremism in the Muslim world.

Among the many sections and subsections of the September 11th Recommendations Implementation Act are steps to improve the way the United States interacts with key countries in the war on terrorism: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has faced an upsurge in terrorist attacks blamed on al-Qaida-linked groups and individuals.

In passing intelligence reform legislation, Congress calls on President Bush to come up with a strategy for future relations with the kingdom.

This includes a new framework for cooperation in the war on terrorism with specific reference to financing of terrorists, and an examination of steps to, in the words of the legislation, reverse the trend toward extremism in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries in the Middle East.

Also mandated: a framework for promoting greater tolerance and respect for cultural diversity in Saudi Arabia and the region.

Congress hopes to have a similar impact in Pakistan, where it says U.S. policy should try to ensure a long-term policy of moderation, including reforms in the education system.

The United States, it says, should support with financial and other aid, efforts to fight extremism and halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff says the September 11th Act contains steps he supported against nuclear non-proliferation.

"[There are provisions that call for] the establishment of a national counter-proliferation center that can attack this problem of the proliferation of nuclear material as well as chemical and biological material," he said. "It will help oversee operational efforts to interdict this material, and also recommended changes in the international legal structure that will better help us deal with the [Pakistani nuclear scientist] A.Q. Khan's of the world, to deal with Iran, to deal with North Korea, and attack this very real danger to our country."

One of the longest sections deals with Afghanistan and efforts to build democracy while fighting terrorists and opium cultivation.

Similar to Saudi Arabia, the legislation says President Bush should present in not later than six months, a five-year strategy addressing a range of goals from security and economic development to the rule of law.

He is also directed to continue working to ensure progress is not undermined by warlords and narcotics trafficking, and to urge NATO and other countries to increase military contributions for an extended period of time.

Extensive language on narcotics reflects frustration in Congress that the U.S. military has not been as engaged as many had hoped in eradicating poppy cultivation. Lawmakers required a report from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on progress within four months.

The legislation also addresses another of the recommendations of the September 11 Commission, namely improving U.S. public diplomacy to help fight spread of terrorism and promote democracy.

It calls for more focused planning for, and an annual assessment of the impact of such things as foreign broadcasts, on specific target audiences.

Also, more emphasis on foreign language training for U.S. diplomats, more money for direct youth and other exchanges with Muslim countries, and aid to American-sponsored elementary and secondary schools in the Muslim world.

The September 11th Act also seeks to make improvements in the areas of human intelligence, in contrast to electronic and other methods, and non-proliferation.

Retiring Democratic Senator Bob Graham cites weaknesses in one of those areas as a reason the United States found itself at war in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I think the case can be made that defects in our human intelligence contributed to the circumstances that led to both of those wars and I'm very pleased that this legislation will recognize the importance of human intelligence and advance our capacity to provide the kind of people with the kind of skills prepared to carry out the kind of missions required today," he said.

Finally, among the many steps becoming law under the intelligence reform law will be those intended to send a strong message to governments that may still be supporting terrorists.

Congress calls on President Bush to submit a report within 90 days with a strategy for addressing and, where possible, eliminating terrorist sanctuaries.

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