U.S. State Department Creates Bureau of Counterterrorism


State Department to Elevate its Counterterrorism Office (ABC News):

The State Department plans to elevate its counterterrorism office to a full-fledged bureau on Wednesday, a move that officials say will send a strong signal to allies about the U.S. commitment to strengthening their ability to combat extremism.

The promotion fulfills a pledge by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a speech last year to do so as part of an effort to integrate all the tools of American power to combat terror threats. The new bureau is not expected to receive a larger budget, but officials say it will help raise the State Department’s counterterrorism profile both within the U.S. government and abroad.

In her speech, Secretary Clinton spoke of the need to build “an international counterterrorism network” to combat terror adversaries and said that upgrading the department’s counterterrorism office will be key to developing that critical capacity in partner countries.

The Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, as it is currently known, plays an often unsung role in the U.S. government’s counterterrorism apparatus, losing the limelight to higher profile cousins in the intelligence community, Department of Homeland Security, and military. Yet Ambassador Benjamin said its role was critical in improving the capacity of other countries who share U.S. interests.

“You cannot shoot your way out of the world’s terrorism problem,” he said. Instead he referred to what he called “counterterrorism diplomacy,” which focuses on boosting the capacity of foreign countries to deal with extremism within their borders and convincing them to do more about it on their own.

Ambassador Benjamin said his office’s promotion will send a message to those countries that they need to do more.

Bureau of Counterterrorism (state.gov):

The Department of State announces the establishment of the Bureau of Counterterrorism, fulfilling one of the key recommendations of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review concluded in December 2010. The Bureau of Counterterrorism will lead the Department’s engagement in support of U.S. government efforts to counter terrorism abroad and to secure the United States against foreign terrorist threats. The new Bureau will assume the responsibilities of the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism.

The Challenge

The United States faces a continuing terrorist threat from al-Qaida and other groups and individuals who subscribe to violent extremism. While we have made much progress in combating terrorism since the 9/11 attacks, challenges remain. Together with defense, intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security, diplomacy and development are critical to keeping America safe. To secure our future, we must continue to strengthen our international coalition against terrorism, build foreign partner capacity to mitigate terrorist threats, reinforce resilience against attacks, and counter the ideologies and ideas that fuel violent extremism around the world.

The Mission

The Bureau of Counterterrorism, in coordination with Department leadership, the National Security Staff, and other U.S. government agencies, will develop and implement counterterrorism strategies, policies, operations, and programs. It will lead in supporting U.S. counterterrorism diplomacy and seek to strengthen homeland security, counter violent extremism, and build the capacity of partner nations to deal effectively with terrorism.

The Bureau

The Bureau of Counterterrorism will implement its mission by:

  • Developing and implementing counterterrorism strategies, policies, and operations. The U.S. government has no greater responsibility than to protect the American people. The Bureau of Counterterrorism will play an integral role in meeting this obligation by leading the Department’s engagement to develop and implement counterterrorism strategies, policies, and operations to disrupt and defeat the networks that support terrorism. The Bureau will work to safeguard American security interests while promoting our values, including our support for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.
  • Strengthening counterterrorism diplomacy. Strengthening existing partnerships and building new relationships is a cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism policy. The Bureau of Counterterrorism will engage with bilateral partners, regional organizations, and the United Nations to broaden and deepen counterterrorism cooperation. In one of many initiatives, the Bureau will lead U.S. government efforts on behalf of the State Department to support the Global Counterterrorism Forum, a new multilateral initiative focused on setting the international counterterrorism agenda for the 21st century.
  • Strengthening homeland security. Securing the homeland from external terrorist threats is central to U.S. foreign policy. The Bureau of Counterterrorism will be the principal State Department link with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on counterterrorism strategy and operations. The Bureau will work in partnership with DHS, as well as other agencies and bureaus, to strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of homeland security issues including transportation security, the interdiction of terrorist travel, and critical infrastructure protection.
  • Countering violent extremism. To defeat terrorists, we must undermine their ability to recruit. The Bureau of Counterterrorism will focus the State Department in U.S. government efforts to counter violent extremism, thereby reducing radicalization and mobilization abroad. The Bureau will work to delegitimize the violent extremist narrative, to develop positive alternatives for populations vulnerable to recruitment, and to build partner government and civil society capacity to counter violent extremism themselves.
  • Building the capacity of foreign partners. The security of the United States depends on the strength of our partners and allies abroad. With capable partners who are able to manage the threats within their borders and regions, the likelihood of U.S. forces being called into action is greatly reduced. The Bureau of Counterterrorism will work with other bureau and agency partners in supporting U.S. government work to build international partner counterterrorism capacity in the civilian sector and will contribute to efforts in the military and defense sectors.

The Future

Protecting the United States, the American people and our interests abroad will remain a challenge in the 21st Century. New terrorist threats will require innovative strategies, creative diplomacy, and stronger partnerships. By establishing the Bureau of Counterterrorism, the Department of State will strengthen its efforts to meet this challenge.

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