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#829: Terrorism Chief with Haiti Background AP103099, from Slavin (fwd)
Terrorism Chief Stresses Diplomacy
.c The Associated Press
By LAURENCE ARNOLD
WASHINGTON (AP) - Michael A. Sheehan once kicked down doors to confront
Years later his mission is the same, but his technique has changed: He
recently led diplomatic overtures to Afghanistan's ruling Taliban army in
hopes of winning its help in seizing suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.
And diplomacy on Capitol Hill will be needed if Sheehan is to address what he
calls the ``unconscionable'' 36 percent reduction by Congress in the budget
of the U.S. counterterrorism office.
The retired Army lieutenant colonel is the nation's latest coordinator for
counterterrorism - a post that carries the rank of ambassador at large in the
State Department. He is the point man in the government's efforts to prevent
attacks like last year's bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania
that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
Sheehan, 44, is a veteran of world hot spots: Central America, Korea,
Somalia. In Panama, he was the leader and youngest member of a U.S. Army
Special Forces counterterrorism ``door-kicking team'' whose actions he says
he cannot discuss.
But while tough talk and swift action are still part of fighting terrorism,
so is persuasion.
``The bread and butter of what we do is diplomacy,'' Sheehan said in an
interview after the Senate approved his appointment with no dissent. ``We try
to depoliticize terrorism around the world, criminalize its behavior and work
with other countries to close off terrorists.''
The task includes building an international consensus against terrorist
organizations, isolating states that sponsor or shelter them, and sharing
information with law enforcement officials in other countries.
It includes the economic sanctions recently imposed by President Clinton
against the Taliban government in Afghanistan for harboring bin Laden, the
suspected terrorist mastermind behind the embassy bombings.
And it includes military force, such as last year's U.S. missile assaults
against camps in Afghanistan and a factory in Sudan after the embassy bombings
Since the Office of Coordinator for Counterterrorism is located at the
intersection of military might and diplomatic finesse, prospective
coordinators are drawn from either arena. Sheehan, a military veteran,
succeeded a career member of the foreign service, Philip Wilcox Jr., who held
the post from 1994 until his retirement in 1997.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Sheehan joined the military after high school
and began a career that would send him around the globe.
After Panama, Sheehan served as a company commander in an Army unit on the
demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. He then worked as a
military adviser in El Salvador before seeking a master's degree in
international relations at Georgetown University.
There he took a class taught by now-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright,
who would become a major influence on his career.
He worked with Albright in New York after she became U.S. ambassador to the
United Nations in 1993. As part of United Nation's peacekeeping efforts, Sheeh
an spent seven months in Mogadishu, Somalia's ravaged capital, in 1993 and
1994, and four months in Haiti in 1994.
Albright became secretary of state in 1997. When the job of counterterrorism
coordinator - reporting directly to her - became vacant last year, she named
Sheehan to the post on an acting basis while his nomination worked its way
State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said Albright ``hand-picked
Ambassador Sheehan for this post precisely because he has a unique
combination of field experience and Washington policy experience.''
Testifying in July before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sheehan
said international terrorism has changed since 1980, when Americans were held
hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran.
Groups involved in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, ``are more in the mold of the new terrorist threat -
groups that are often self-financed with less direct linkage to state
sponsors,'' he said.
The embassy bombings put terrorism on the front burner in Congress. The House
in July unanimously authorized $1.4 billion for security upgrades at
Sheehan said the challenge will be maintaining that attention.
``I think it's the type of effort that we have to sustain over the long time
- indefinitely really,'' he said. ``You can become exhausted if you're at a
heightened state of security all the time.
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP
news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise
distributed without prior written authority of The Associated Press.