Lead Republican McCaul: Preventing Terrorism Abroad to Protect Americans at Home

By: House Foreign Affairs Lead Republican Michael McCaul (R-TX)

Austin American-Statesman

January 27, 2019

At a time when our nation’s political discourse is so divisive, it is often a challenge to bring bipartisan legislation across the finish line. I am proud that the Global Fragility Act, legislation I championed with a bipartisan group of colleagues to stabilize conflict-affected areas and keep America safe from emerging terrorist threats, transcended this political divide and was recently signed into law by the president.

Following 9/11, America has successfully degraded terrorist operations throughout the Middle East and has destroyed the so-called physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria. But the fight against terrorism is far from over. The dangerous ideology of violent extremism lives on and so does the threat it poses to America and our allies. With the land reclaimed, many in the Islamic State and other terrorist groups have looked to fragile regions, like Africa, to find safe haven and regroup. Nations plagued by weak governance, corruption, and extreme poverty are fertile grounds for jihadi groups to attract recruits and grow.

It is estimated that 10,000 ISIS and al Qaeda jihadists are active across Africa, preying on these fragile conditions to spread their violent extremism. Of note, terrorist attacks against innocent civilians in West Africa have doubled every year since 2015. And earlier this month, there was a terrorist attack at Kenya’s Manda Bay air force base carried out by an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group that killed three American service members.

Africa isn’t the only region facing these risks; we are living in an era of unprecedented global instability. According to the Global Peace Index, violent conflict costs the global economy more than $14 trillion every year, killing tens of thousands of people, and displacing millions from their homes. In the past, the United States has invested billions of dollars to stabilize fragile states and conflict areas, often with little to show for our efforts.

We need a new strategy to help stop regional instability from evolving into conflict and potential terrorist activity. This is the central tenet of the Global Fragility Act. It will ensure a whole-of-government, long-term approach to help prevent violent conflict in fragile nations, rather than funding piecemeal, uncoordinated activities. It supports efforts to address the root causes of extremism, ensure citizen-responsive governance, combat corruption, and prioritize economic development. Proactive investments in security and development will make the United States and our allies safer in the long run.

Like former Defense Secretary James Mattis once said, if we don’t fully fund the State Department then we need to “simply buy more bullets.” He understood, just as I do, that our best defense against terrorism is to stop radicalization before it occurs through diplomatic engagement. Preventing terrorism costs far less than responding to it — in tax-payer dollars, military resources, and most importantly in lives.

Effectively addressing the link between fragile states, violent conflict, and terrorism has long been a priority of the government and the advocacy community. The feedback and support of organizations like the ONE campaign and over 50 groups under the Alliance for Peacebuilding was instrumental in advancing the Global Fragility Act.

Preventing emerging terrorist threats abroad will keep Americans and Texans safe at home. As the lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I will continue working to ensure we are using every foreign policy tool to counter terrorism and protect our homeland.

The op-ed originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, here.