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Nigel SheinwaldAmbassador, Washington
I had the opportunity on Wednesday to speak to Columbia University's School of International & Public Affairs about the British response to terrorism. Terrorism is a menace which both the UK and US have suffered from and continue to face. People in New York and my hometown of London - as well as many other cities around the world - know this threat well and have experienced terrible loss and tragedy as a result of attacks in recent years.
Attacks in the US, the UK and many other countries across Africa, Europe and Asia have at their root a misguided and extreme interpretation of Islam. In the UK, threats have often come from people who have been brought up in our communities, while in the US, terrorism has been largely an external threat. So although our approaches have involved very substantial co-operation between our law-enforcement and intelligence agencies, we have different areas of emphasis.
In the UK, we have directed a tremendous amount of resources to the pursuit and disruption of terrorist activity. By 2011, the amount of money being invested in this area will have doubled since 2001. This has allowed us to increase the size of the Security Service and the number of police involved in countering violent extremism. As a result, we are regionalising our counter-terrorism effort in a way we never have before with four regional counter-terrorism policing hubs in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds, with a fifth on the way. These units extend our reach and effectiveness in tackling terrorism.
We have convicted more individuals for terrorist offences. Since the beginning of last year, 81 people have been found guilty as a result of 23 operations. Part of this success is due to the strengthening of our counter-terrorism legislation, for example by widening the range of offences.
We work closely with Muslim communities in the UK, the vast majority of whom share our determination to tackle the extremists and their message. It's important to those communities, and to us, that we define the extremists not by their religion, but by their readiness to commit criminal acts of terrible violence. This is what makes them unacceptable in our society, and why there is broad cross-community condemnation of them and their methods.
It is clear that no country can counter these threats alone. The US is Britain's closest partner in the fight against international terrorism. This is perhaps most obvious in Afghanistan where UK and US troops are engaged in the difficult but vital mission of building a secure and stable country that can no longer harbour terrorists or be used as a base from which to plan and launch attacks on our countries. But in so many other parts of the world the close co-operation and sharing of intelligence, expertise, and technical capabilities between the UK and US makes our efforts to combat terrorism much stronger and more effective. Co-ordinating this joint approach is a priority for the British Embassy. It is essential for both our countries' security that our co-operation should continue and grow.