newsCO.com.au–Turnbull to strengthen counter-terror work in region

March 13, 2018

“We will use it to build on our deep legacy of co-operation to establish a contemporary, outward-looking partnership for the rapidly changing world we live in.

“During their visit, the leaders will join me at a Counter-Terrorism Conference where we will strengthen our united approach to the scourge of violent extremism in our region.”

Asian leaders have been increasingly concerned at the prospect of foreign terrorist fighters returning to the region after being radicalised and trained in Syria and Iraq, with hundreds of Indonesians and Filipinos estimated to have fought with Islamic State.

The fighting in Marawi last year has also heightened concerns about the way Islamic State can encourage attacks in regions distant from the Middle East.

Australia sent troops to train Filipino soldiers last year and also committed two P3 Orion spy planes to monitor the region, prompting experts to warn about regional implications.

“It is doubtful that ISIS in the Philippines has much capability to project attacks into other parts of Southeast Asia, but it could call upon thousands of sympathisers in Indonesia and Malaysia to attack Australians there,” wrote Clive Williams, honorary professor at the Centre for Military and Security Law at the Australian National University.

The special ASEAN summit, a rare meeting outside the group’s ten member states, includes a counter-terrorism summit on Saturday as well as separate economic meetings and a forum with about 120 chief executives.

Fairfax Media understands the security agenda includes discussion on the laws needed to stop foreign fighters, the co-operation needed to crack down on terror financing, better ways to prevent radicalisation and sharing intelligence.

The closed-door session will be chaired by Tony Sheehan, Commonwealth Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, and includes the top-level officials from security and police agencies across the region.

Mr Turnbull, who will make the closing address to the counter-terrorism conference, writes that political alienation and economic nationalism are on the rise in many countries.

“And power is shifting between nations, driving geo-political uncertainty, upgrades in military capability and strategic competition,” he says.

“This should not make us anxious, it should make us ambitious.

“We must take responsibility for our own security and prosperity, while recognising that we are stronger when we share the burden of leadership with trusted partners.”

David Crowe

David Crowe is the chief political correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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