Aspen Security Forum 2011

“In the wake of bin Laden’s death, policymakers and average citizens alike are rightly asking fundamental questions like: 1) Is this simply a huge tactical victory against Al Qaeda, or is it also a strategic one? In other words, will it mark merely a pause in this now decade-long war, or is it, instead, a turning point leading to the day when terrorism is again a third-order concern like crime, rather than a mortal — maybe even existential — threat to the nation? 2) If Al Qaeda’s headquarters and most of its leaders are now in Pakistan, why do we have 100,000 troops next door in Afghanistan and isn’t it time for them to come home? 3) Is Pakistan friend or foe? 4) Who will succeed bin Laden as the head of ‘Al Qaeda Central,’ and are its affiliates — especially the one in Yemen, ‘Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,’ which has been linked to plot after plot in recent months — the greater danger now?” These were a few of the questions presented in the introduction to the 2011 Aspen Security Forum which was held from 27-30 July at the Aspen Institute in Aspen, Colorado.

Partnered by the Institute’s Homeland Security Program and The New York Times, the forum hosted over fifty noted speakers from across the Homeland Security spectrum and related fields, including: Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; Admiral Eric Olson, Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM); Daniel Benjamin, Ambassador-at-Large, Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Department of State; Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs, Department of Defense; John Pistole, Assistant Secretary, Transportation Security Administration; General Douglas Lute, Special Assistant to the President for Afghanistan and Pakistan; Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; Michael Leiter, former Director, National Counterterrorism Center; Adm. (Ret.) Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence; Stephen Hadley, former White House National Security Advisor; Gen. (Ret.) Michael Hayden, former Director, Central Intelligence Agency; former Director, National Security Agency and John McLaughlin, former Deputy and Acting Director, Central Intelligence Agency. Further questions explored by the panels included: “1) Ten years after 9/11, is America better prepared to detect, defend against, and recover from terror attacks? 2) What accounts for the recent rise in incidents of ‘homegrown’ terrorism; what can be done to counter this threat; and is it an even greater threat nowadays than that from foreign terrorists? 3) What is the optimal balance between security and liberty, and between hysteria and complacency? 4) Is countering terrorism solely the job of government, or does each of us have at least some role to play?” Webcasts of select interviews, discussions and panels are accessible via the link.

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