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Interview: Trump's travel ban may do little to prevent terror attacks: U.S. expert

Editor: Wang Lingxiao 丨Xinhua

03-19-2017 10:18 BJT

by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, March 18 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump's ban on immigration from six majority Muslim countries may do little to deter the terror threat, a U.S. expert told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Trump recently revised the controversial visa ban to bar entry of citizens from six countries - Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - for 90 days and suspend entry of some refugees for 120 days. But the revised ban has been suspended by federal judges like the original one.

"The new immigration executive order most likely will do little to deter terrorists from entering the U.S. or attacking Americans or U.S. interests abroad," said Wayne White, former deputy director of the State Department's Middle East Intelligence Office.

That's because the ban would alienate many Arab Muslims, especially in countries on the no-go list, he said.

"Such alienation or resentment probably will make radicalization of individuals by IS, al-Qaida and their affiliates much easier," White said, referring to the world's two most dangerous terror groups.

The exemption from the temporary travel ban granted to countries friendly to the U.S. - from Tunisia through Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan - was based not on lack of threat, but merely on political considerations, White said.

Unless U.S. embassies in exempted Arab and Muslim countries double down with crackdown on passport and visa fraud, potential terrorists could make their way to the U.S. on fake or stolen passports from non-banned countries, he said.

The terrorists could even also enter the country with stolen or successfully faked visas, such as one operation run by mobsters in Ghana that was shut down only last December. The operation distributed its high quality fakes throughout Africa and even Europe, White said.

"Moreover, little has been done since I was a senior U.S. visa officer in an embassy some years ago to better supervise line visa officers to make sure all such officers are rigorously diligent and-in a few isolated extreme cases-not corrupt -- as in selling visas under the table," he said.

Of course, most recent cases of terror attacks inside the U.S. were carried out by individuals already in the U.S. who have been radicalized, rather than new immigrants or visitors, White said.

While IS's back is against the wall in the Middle Eastern areas it controls, the group is still dangerous, and could still strike outside of its strongholds, he said.

Although IS combatants within its shrinking caliphate in Syria and Iraq have not had as their leading goal conducting terror attacks on the U.S., many fighters will likely initiate attempts to disperse outward, as did al-Qaida fighters caught in the tightening American military net in Afghanistan in 2001-2002, he said.

At least some will have the goal of reaching the West as terrorists or setting up shop in havens such as Libya, Yemen, and Somalia in order to recruit individuals willing to do so, White said.

Supporters of Trump's ban say he is merely fulfilling a campaign promise and following through with policies he outlined for over a year on the campaign trail.

Trump promised during last year's campaign to get tough on terror and put America's national security first, especially in light of the brutal terror attacks over the recent two years, both on the U.S. and countries worldwide.

Those include the 2015 attack by an IS sympathizer, who shot up a gay nightclub in Florida and killed around 50 people. The shooter did not enter the U.S. from overseas, although his father was an Afghan immigrant.

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