by Ted Regencia
NEW YORK, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- Progress has been made in securing the U.S. 10 years after the 9/11, but "major threats" remain from al-Qaeda affiliates based in unstable states around the world, a foreign policy expert told Xinhua.
Stuart Gottlieb, who teaches foreign policy and counterterrorism at Columbia University, said his analysis reveals the country is now safer in part because of President Obama`s decision to extend many of the Bush administration`s counterterrorism tactics
"The United States is safer than before 9/11," he said. "We have a better understanding of the nature of the threat."
Gottlieb pointed out that many of the Bush administration`s policies including the assassinations of suspected terrorists using drone strikes and "aggressive" surveillance remain in place more than two years into the Obama presidency.
"The reason that the Obama administration kept those policies is because they worked," Gottlieb told Xinhua, adding that he finds it "ironic" considering Obama`s promise "to reverse or undo all of Bush`s hard-line terrorism policies."
Still, he warned about the existence of terrorist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as affiliated groups in Somalia, Nigeria, the Philippines and Indonesia. These groups, he said, " have the capacity to engage in major terrorist attacks if they are committed to do so."
"That being said, we`re still confronting terrorist threats that seek to get inside the country and kill some people," Gottlieb said.
New York Congressman Jose Serrano is a long-time Democratic critic of many of Bush policies. He said he feels "more secure now. "
"I can tell you that a lot has been done for the security and I don`t think it`s by accident that there hasn`t been another attack, " Serrano said in a separate interview Sunday. "I think there`s also been a lot of intelligence work, a lot of security work."
But Serrano stressed the U.S. cannot compromise the rights of individual citizens in favor of advancing security.
In the past, Serrano, who represents a Bronx district with high immigrant and Muslim populations, had said trials for suspected terrorists should be held in civilian, not military, courts.
"I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said anybody who trades rights for security deserves neither rights nor security," Serrano said, apparently referring to continued operation of the Guantanamo military prison in Cuba, which is being used by the U.S. government to hold foreign fighters.
During the campaign, Obama had vowed to close Guantanamo, but it remains open until now, something that Gottlieb also noted in his Xinhua interview.
"We`ve seen a fairly fluid transition from Bush to Obama despite all the so-called promises of change from the Obama administration," Gottlieb added.
As this developed, Gottlieb warned that Pakistan remains the " number one" on the list of the U.S. counterterrorism effort because of "active" jihadist movements that also pose threat to the state.
"If there`s some sort of Islamist radical jihad takeover of Pakistan, then that`s the biggest challenge," he said.
The South Asian nuclear power poses a "tricky" situation for the U.S. because it is playing a "double game" as an American ally and as supporter of more "radical groups" like the Taliban in Afghanistan," Gottlieb stressed, noting Pakistan`s geopolitical interest and rivalry with India.
Gottlieb said the death of Osama bin Laden did not necessarily create a new lineup of fighters and jihadists, but other terror groups have always existed separate from the al-Qaeda leader.
Meanwhile, Gottlieb, who once served as foreign advisors to Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, said the Arab Spring creates a political opportunity for young Arabs in the Middle East, but could also result in power vacuums that raise profiles of extremist groups and increase their recruiting efforts in the Muslim world.