Terrorism expert Dr. Walid Phares says Belgian authorities are making some of the same mistakes as other European nations in the wake of a major terrorist attack, and the new foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump is also explaining what Americans could expect on this front if Trump becomes president.
Phares is a longtime Middle East and terrorism scholar, a Fox News terrorism analyst, a lecturer at National Defense University and an adviser to the U.S. Congress. In recent days, he was announced as one of Trump’s five top advisers on matters of foreign policy and national security.
In the wake of major terrorist attacks earlier this week, Belgian authorities are actively conducting raids and chasing down leads to find the perpetrators of the airport and subway bombings. Phares says those operations are being run with some competence but don’t get at the bigger issue plaguing Europe and other parts of the world.
“My worry is not about the tactical investigation. It is really about the strategic investigation with regard to who planted that cell initially. What kind of communication does it have with ISIS, meaning the metropolitan ISIS back in Iraq and Syria, and the possibility of other networks, not just in Belgium and France, but also on the rest of the continent?” said Phares.
He says the fight to stop the spread of radical Islamic terrorism needs to be at the ideological level, not just in aggressive law enforcement.
“Yes, [the Belgian authorities] could have done a little better on the technological level, but the real battle will always be how to disconnect the radicalization and indoctrination networks,” said Phares. “We’re doing everything but that.”
For his part, Trump responded to the attacks by targeting immigration policy, a move Phares says is being very responsive to his base.
“He says, ‘We don’t know what’s happening.’ So now the answer to that is his administration, his task forces that he will be forming will have to answer one question, in cooperation with Congress of course. ‘How do we vet?’ The answers to all the questions about the jihadists is, ‘How do we vet them?'” said Phares.
He says the answer on vetting immigrants lies in digging much deeper into applicants’ connections with those driving a radical ideology.
“You have to create the proper institution that is concentrating on the vetting, meaning, number one, determine what the ideology is, who is circulating the ideology, who is actually creating those madrassas, meaning ideological schools online and offline. Start to work a bit deeper than just a tactical investigation. It’s a whole change of policy,” said Phares.
He says that is the polar opposite of what President Obama and Hillary Clinton want to do.
“The problem is that the Obama administration and maybe a Clinton administration won’t be inclined to do so. They have always been remote from dealing with anything related to the jihadi ideology,” said Phares.
As for Trump’s general foreign policy and national security philosophy, Phares says it’s a work in progress.
“Mr. Trump is coming from a different field than the other public policy politicians. he’s a very successful businessman. He is arriving to the scene with that huge experience in terms of economics and finances and deals and what have you,” said Phares.
“He is now in the process of forming his strategic thinking with the help of reading a lot, he observes a lot and with the help of the task forces he establishes,” said Phares.
For those looking for detailed Trump plans soon, Phares says they are coming, but not in time for primary voters to evaluate them.
“I think the major activity is going to come hopefully after the nomination,” said Phares.