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National security forum returns to Aspen this week

Scott Schlafer
Special to The Aspen Times

As concerned citizens, we have both the right and the duty to be knowledgeable about the safety and well-being of our nation. With that in mind, the Aspen Institute is hosting the fourth annual Aspen Security Forum with nearly 100 top-level government officials convening for the various sessions.

The 2013 Aspen Security Forum is panning out to be one of the most interesting and relevant in recent years with regard to recent national-security threats such as Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency leaks and the Boston Marathon bombing. This international event will cover topics headed by the leading officials in the field, including Gen. Keith Alexander, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency; Ashton Carter, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Defense; and Gen. Mark Welsh, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force.

The most influential people in the country will be gathering in Aspen because Clark Ervin envisioned a forum at the Aspen Institute on homeland security to properly inform the public about America’s safety.

“The idea is to gather the top most incumbent government officials, leading thinkers, industry leaders and top journalists to focus on whatever the leading national-security issues are,” Ervin said. “Certainly everyone, including policymakers and concerned citizens, should be aware of these issues.”

As the first inspector general of homeland security under the Bush Administration, Ervin has a reputation for being critical about the vulnerabilities in the American defense system. The reason Ervin decided to hold the forum at the Aspen Institute and not in Washington, D.C., is that Aspen provides a unique platform that encourages conversation unlike anywhere else in the country.

“Everyone who has been to Aspen knows that there is something magical about the place,” Ervin said. “When the rest of the country goes to sleep in the summer, Aspen conduces conversation and deep dialogue over serious issues that simply cannot occur in Washington.”

Ervin said he is excited that Husain Haqqani, former ambassador to the U.S. from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, will be coming to speak at the forum. Haqqani will be discussing the development of the Taliban’s embassy in Afghanistan and why he believes it is a poor idea for the U.S. to engage in peace talks with them. Ervin said he is in agreement with Haqqani.

“In theory, it’s a good idea. I think the last 12 years shows there is no military solution to Afghanistan,” Ervin said. “On a practical matter, however, it probably won’t really achieve much, and one should also question the reliability of the Afghan government as our partner.”

In addition, there will be sessions on turmoil in the Middle East, the Air Force’s role in counterterrorism and other aspects of national security. The forum will run with daily events Wednesday through Saturday. Tickets are on sale at the Wheeler Opera House, http://www.aspenshowtix.com and 970-920-5770.


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