UNITED States Embassy Chief of the Military Liasion Office, Col Claudia Carrizales, yesterday said TT must be ready for the return of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs). Carrizales also underscored the US’ commitment to combat this threat, other security threats and TT as a key ally in the Caribbean. At the American Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting at the Hilton Trinidad, she said, “Within the next year or so, you will eventually have some hardened FTFs return to this country.”
Carrizales said those people were currently being detained in Syria and Iraq. Wishful thinking and the belief that “God is a Trini” will not change that, she added.
“Those are your citizens. they are your responsibility.”
Carrizales asked her audience, “Are you ready to deal with that kind of threat?”
She said the US was committed to help TT deal with the threat.
Carrizales said the people who attempted to pull off last year’s Carnival terror threat were “boy scouts” compared “to what’s coming back.”
She said anyone who believed that threat was a conspiracy theory, is “living under a rock,” Carrizales declared.
“The fact that nothing happened during that Carnival is a huge success for this country. A huge success for your defence force and your police tactical units which addressed the issue.”
She said the US spent US$6.2 million to train TT’s elite security forces. Carrizales also disclosed that US special operations personnel worked closely with local elite military and police units for two years to ensure TT “was prepared for any type of terrorist situation.”
She said the thwarting of last year’s Carnival threat showed that TT passed the test.
“People it was real and we were able to address that threat.”
She explained the missing element to a terrorist problem in TT was “that charismatic Muslim hard core FTF” who could “rally the rest.” Should this happen, Carrizales said, “Then you have a problem.”
She said business would not invest in a country “with that kind of problem,” and it was not a problem which Government alone could solve. Carrizales said the business community must do what it could to influence policy changes and address issues in at-risk communities.
She explained that if problems were not addressed at the grassroots, the issue “will only get bigger.”
Carrizales also disclosed that over the last four years, the US spent $2.4 million to train and equip TT’s security forces. Over the last three years, Carrizales said US$2.3 million was spent to train local judges, and security officers for elite training in the US.
Carrizales said TT must also understand that the US expects reciprocity in their relationship. After saying the US is helping TT safeguard its energy and electricity infrastructure, Carrizales reiterated, “We are a god-damn strong and good partner.”
While the US may not be TT’s preferred partner in everything, Carrizales said the population could be assured that “when the crap hits the fan, it’s the red, white and blue that’s sitting right there next to you.”