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US Military Official Says Cooperation Key to Defeating Terrorism

A U.S. military official says cooperation is the key to defeating terrorism in the Asia-Pacific region. Senior military officers and civilian counter-terrorism experts from Pacific Rim nations are meeting in Hawaii this week. The official says the conference is about building partnerships.

The focus of the meeting is suppressing terrorism and improving partnerships among the Asia-Pacific countries, including the United States, China, India, Indonesia and Britain, which are represented.

Brigadier General David Fridovich, who heads Special Operations Command-Pacific, based in Honolulu, says terrorism is an international scourge and combating it is must be an international effort. "People have to understand and recognize that the threat does not recognize borders, it doesn't recognize sovereignty of nations -- matter of fact it ignores sovereignty of nations and borders -- and the only way you can try to deny and disrupt (it) is to get their decision cycle, but it's gotta be from a tool kit or capability kit that allows you to go in a variety of different places, which means we won't be the ones doing it," he said.

The general was joined at his news briefing by Maria Ressa, a former CNN bureau chief in Manila and author of "Seeds of Terror," which examines al-Qaida's operations in Southeast Asia. Ressa said the conference is an invaluable way to build military-to-military relations in the region. "It's also an attempt to try and look at what's going on globally through different lenses, to step out of our lenses we always impose on the world, and to try and see it from others' (lenses)," he said.

Ressa has worked closely with General Fridovich since his special operations forces deployed to Basilan Island in the Southern Philippines in 2002 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The region has been plagued by a Muslim insurgency led by Abu Sayaf and others that pre-dates the 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

Ressa says, despite counter-terrorism successes, al-Qaida continues to recruit in the Asia-Pacific regioni and defeating it cannot be accomplished using only the military. She says moderate Muslims must join the fight. "There has to be a greater moderate Muslim voice speaking for the Muslims. I think the United States definitely has a role in the war against terrorism, but it can't win it -- because this is a conflict within the Muslim world. And if the moderate Muslims don't step up, then the radical ideology will continue to grow, and they can recruit either through personal links or through madrasses (Muslim schools) -- we know the path they have taken," he said.

Ressa also says al-Qaida has an ability to adapt and decentralize, and the only way to understand its changing shape is to put special forces on the ground - with the permission of the host nations.

This is the first special operations conference to which the media have been invited since the 2001 terrorist attack in the United States.