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Gen. David Petraeus says solution to terrorism must be ‘sustainable’ and eliminate the ‘bad guys’

September 19, 2017

The annual Concordia Summit in New York City this year tackled timely topics, as leaders from both the public and private sectors convened to foster meaningful, actionable dialogue.

One such panel at the Summit included Gen. David Petraeus, former CIA Director; former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff; and Frances Townsend, former Homeland Security advisor. They spoke about terrorism in the post-9/11 era, as well as the state of terrorism in Syria, which some have labeled “the new Iraq.”

When asked about the likelihood of another terrorist attack like the one on Sept. 11, 2001, the panel generally agreed that such an attack is unlikely, as intelligence sharing and security have both improved since then.

“The truth is, if you want to be a terrorist, you’re not going to go through immigration [processes],” Petraeus said. “Individuals are likely already identified in a pool of data.”

“Sharing [intelligence] has vastly improved” since 9/11, and there is more data sharing between intelligence and law enforcement communities. And, there are now more counterterrorism joint task forces, Petraeus added.

As far as Syria being considered the “new Iraq,” as a hotbed haven of terrorists, Petraeus said the situation is “beginning to improve,” but “Syria is much worse than Iraq.”

About 500,000 Syrians have been killed, and much of the country’s inhabitants have been displaced.

And a major difference between the Islamic State (ISIS) and al Qaeda is that “ISIS truly established a caliphate on the ground.”

ISIS is also “barbastically clever” in using cyberspace, social media, the regular web and the dark web for online recruitment, which Petraeus says is “sophisticated.”

While progress has been made in the fight against terrorism online – the battle for hearts and minds – Petraeus says it is a “tougher problem than child pornography,” and agreed that media and social media companies have to deploy methods to combat it, just as the military has to physically combat terrorists.

“We always had a question on the walls: will this operation take more bad guys than it creates,” Petraeus explained. “This applies to policy, too.”

He pointed out that the measure of merit is in the sustainability – “Las Vegas rules don’t apply,” Petraeus said, meaning that what happens in terrorist havens doesn’t simply stay in those areas – it spreads.

Terrorism is a “generational problem,” and there needs to be a comprehensive, cohesive approach, he added.

Concordia is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps build partnerships that will impart positive social impact. It uses the partnership model as a holistic approach to addressing the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and specifically utilizes knowledge from both the public and private sectors.

The Concordia Summit began in 2011 and includes prominent business, government and nonprofit leaders who aim to enable effective partnerships for social impact.

The Summit simultaneously takes place during the U.N. General Assembly and has more than 4,500 participants, including 50 current and former heads of state, 600 international and Fortune 500 executives, nonprofit leaders and senior government officials.