How Can We Reduce the Risks of Terrorism?
General of the Armed Forces Jiri Sedivy
Former Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Republic
Terrorism is not ending-on the contrary, we are witnessing its spread. To deal with it we must be prepared in a wide range of areas and we must cooperate because terrorists are becoming better connected throughout the world. They are also carrying out increasingly spectacular attacks to reach their political goals, thereby killing an ever greater number of innocent people. No longer do plastic explosives cause only a few casualties as part of extortion. Danger today comes from more sophisticated and refined assaults, including those involving weapons of mass destruction.
Danger is also found in the spread of organized crime. Recently, the Czech Republic has dealt with several potential attacks on trains and attempts to poison hospital food and drinking water. All of these threats were as serious as the threat of bombs and other WMDs. It seems only a matter of time until terrorists and those behind organized crime act together to destroy the democratic system, change the political environment, and obtain money for their causes.
THE NEED FOR FAST-RESPONSE PLANS
We are ready to fight terrorism and we are also prepared to fight states that support or harbor terrorists. However, we are not prepared to avert the consequences of a terrorist attack against our own population. Our armed forces are trained to combat, guard, patrol, and collect intelligence in order to prevent violent activities. I believe that all countries must prepare themselves to immediately respond to a terrorist attack in order to prevent extensive casualties among the population. We must all cooperate whether or not we are members of NATO, the EU, or CIS. Our armed forces must all be prepared to effectively manage post-attack scenarios, in particular those that involve the use of WMDs.
Most states do possess capabilities to deal with small-scale attacks, but they are not able to respond quickly and in appropriate numbers to large-scale or widespread assaults, for example, coordinated chemical attacks. Such attacks, of course, even if small, can cause enormous panic and enormous damage, as did the attack in Germany by Sadi Mustafa, who is a member of the Tauhid terrorist organization.
THE CZECH REPUBLIC'S RESPONSE CAPABILITIES
The Czech Republic has structured its armed forces to include engineers, chemical protection units, medical personnel, etc. The armed forces are also commanded by specially trained leaders. Five central bases are located across our territory, tasked with managing the consequences of biological-weapons attacks and such problems as SARS. A special hospital near Prague handles cases of anthrax and ebola. We have taken a leading role in this work among the countries in NATO, but our capacities are limited and the need for cooperation and mutual support continues. Every state must be ready to do everything within its capabilities. All of us must also be ready to work together to solve the problems that result from global warming, famine, lack of water, and the movement of large numbers of people.
To handle the results of terrorism and other worldwide problems, we must create homeland security systems that are able to quickly respond to the widespread use of WMDs. We must prepare systems similar to NATO's air-defense system and have in place a decision-making process that will enable us to respond immediately.