The formation of the Transatlantic Group on Counter-Terrorism (TAG) was a bench mark achievement by a number of pioneering legislators from Europe and the United States. In the years following the terror attacks of September 2001 in the United States, March 2004 in Spain, of July 2005 in the United Kingdom and the ongoing confrontations in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and as urban Terror was striking on both sides of the Atlantic, a group of lawmakers from Europe and the United States met in Washington, DC to launch a unique parliamentary initiative which they initially called “The Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counter Terrorism.”
Among these legislators were Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), co-chair of the US House Caucus on Counter Terrorism and her colleagues and MEP Jaime Major-Oreja, Vice Chairman of the EPP-ED Group and responsible for Political Strategy and his colleagues. After months of preparation, the founding members of TAG met at the US Congress and launched their group. The group aimed to create a dialogue platform within the West and throughout liberal democracies to assess the international security situation and the challenges of defense and national security produced by a new form of terrorism aimed at many countries around the world.
Since its initial launch in 2008, TAG has meet annually in Washington, D.C. to discuss issues of common interest to the European Parliament and U.S. Congress and promote unity in thinking about common security and strategies on both sides of the Atlantic.
The following is a summary delivered by TAG’s Secretary General Dr. Walid Phares at the onset of the historic meeting.
(The text below was adapted from a speech given by Dr. Walid Phares on April 30, 2008)
This meeting is the result of a number of concerns regarding the rise of a terrorist threat inspired by a radical global ideology and of two initiatives which were developed concurrently and equally advancing.
The concerns on both sides of the Atlantic, were and are about the rise, spread and advance of a global Jihadist movement – in its two forms: Salafist and Khomeinist within the West, in general and in the United States and Europe, in particular. The attacks of 9/11, the Madrid and London strikes, the Jihadi inspired violence against citizens, society and government in Europe and the many foiled Jihadi inspired terror plots on both sides of the Atlantic, have constituted a strategic indicator as to the current and future goals of these international terrorists.
But these concerns have increased with the findings about the growth of a militant radical movement within our democracies aimed at destabilizing and eventually breaking down economic and national security. The most important finding of all is the fact that what lies behind this terror campaign is the spread of an ideology which legitimizes and a movement which mobilizes this violence.
These findings also apply in the Greater Middle East and the Arab Islamic world where the Jihadi ideologies have been expanding and suppressing civil societies in quest of freedom and pluralism. Hence, out of the United States and of Europe, a number of public figures and intellectuals decided to organize groups to reflect on the issue and propose appropriate action.
In the US House of Representatives, a group of representatives including Rep. Sue Myrick formed a Caucus on Counter Terrorism in 2007 whose main priority is to investigate the mounting threat of Jihadism domestically and internationally. In the European Parliament, a group of members, including MEP Jaime Mayor Oreja, came to a similar conclusion and also initiated activities in the same direction during 2007.
During my briefings to both groups, I as well as my colleagues realized that both Americans and Europeans must address the global threat together. We understand that the same ideology was behind the terror campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic, and that similar strategies in the War of Ideas waged by the Jihadists are applied within our respective democracies. Hence we suggested the idea that an initial contact would take place in the fall of 2007 between the two groups. MEP Mayor Oreja visited Washington and met with the co-chairs of the Caucus. It was decided that a meeting would follow up to launch a joint initiative.
Ladies and gentlemen, today in the US Congress and thanks to both sides, a historic initiative is being launched. The mere meeting and discussions of a joint agenda to confront this threat is a victory by itself. For the Jihadists, main success has been to single out their foes and wage a global campaign against it. Now it is time that democracies come together and form a joint front against terrorism and address the challenge of this menacing ideology.