With Belgium reeling from deadly attacks, White House hopeful Hillary Clinton on Wednesday (23 March) called on Europe to take more decisive steps to combat terrorism, including improving border controls and intelligence cooperation.
The frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination said Washington needs to work hand-in-hand with European nations to thwart and eliminate groups like the self-declared Islamic State.
While the former secretary of state castigated her Republican rivals, including Donald Trump, for their inflammatory rhetoric – “loose cannons tend to misfire,” she said – she pulled no punches in calling on the continent, particularly the European Union, to step up.
“There’s also more they can do to share the burden with us,” Clinton said in her half-hour counter-terrorism address at Stanford University.
“We’d like to see more European countries investing in defence and security,” she said.
Clinton called on European banks to shut down terrorist financing channels and European special forces to train and equip forces fighting extremists.
She also said the continent’s militaries should be flying missions over Iraq and Syria.
Clinton took issue with Europe’s intelligence cooperation efforts, harshly assessing that it “still lags” despite pledges by France and Belgium to move forward after last year’s Paris attacks.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said today (23 March) that better cooperation of the member states secret services was needed to respond to the challenge of terrorism.
She noted that the EU keeps delaying a vote on sharing traveller information between member states, stressing that “it’s actually easier for the United States to get flight manifests from EU nations than it is for EU nations to get them from their own neighbours.”
Timothy Kirkhope, the British MEP shepherding the controversial passenger name records (PNR) bill through the European Parliament, has named security one of the main reasons for the UK to remain in the EU.
Tighter monitoring of suspected jihadists travelling to and from Iraq and Syria was also addressed.
“We need to know the identities of every fighter who makes that trip and start revoking passports and visas,” said Clinton, speaking in a quiet, measured tone that contrasted with the more buoyant style she often uses on the campaign trail.
“Right now, many European nations… don’t alert each other when they turn away a suspected jihadist at the border or when a passport is stolen.”
That point may resonate with leaders after Turkey said Wednesday that it had detained and then deported Ibrahim El Bakraoui, one of the two suicide bombers at the Brussels airport, and accused the Belgian authorities of failing to confirm his links to terror.
“What happens in Europe has a way of making it to America,” Clinton said.
Clinton, who argues that her foreign policy experience would be a crucial presidential asset in troubled times, lashed out at Trump and Republican Ted Cruz for their “reckless” assessments of how to combat extremism.
“It would also be a serious mistake to begin carpet-bombing populated areas into oblivion,” she said, referring to such a proposal by Cruz.
Obama administration in tune
US Defence Secretary Ash Carter also said on Wednesday the Brussels attacks will demonstrate to Europe that it needs join the United States in stepping up the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“The Brussels event is going to further signify to Europeans that, as we have been accelerating our campaign to defeat ISIL in Syria and Iraq and elsewhere, they need to accelerate their efforts and join us,” said Carter, using an acronym for Islamic State, in an interview on CNN.
A prominent US lawmaker said Wednesday that he was convinced the deadly Brussels terror strikes could have been aimed at Americans since there were US airline counters nearby.
“From my vantage point, it does look like an attack on Americans. It looks like it was targeted towards Americans to some degree,” Republican congressman Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence chair, told reporters.
Nunes noted that Tuesday’s bomb tore through part of Brussels international airport “right by the United, American and Delta airline stands” and that the location of the Maalbeek metro station bombing was “close to the US embassy”.
In fact, the Mallbeek station is more than half a kilometre from the US embassy.
“If you were going to pick locations where you might hit Americans, those would be the locations,” Nunes argued.