Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Obama launches Bureau of Counterterrorism

By  Joel Gehrke Commentary Staff Writer

President Obama's State Department announced, during a press briefing today, the creation of the Bureau of Counterterrorism, which will coordinate with United States entities such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and foreign governments to develop civilian counterterrorism strategies and operations.
"The mission of the new bureau will be to lead the [State] Department in the U.S. Government’s effort to counter terrorism abroad and to secure the United States against foreign terrorist threats," Ambassador Dan Benjamin told reporters. "The bureau will lead in supporting U.S. counterterrorism diplomacy and seek to strengthen homeland security, countering violent extremism, and build the capacity of partner nations to deal effectively with terrorism."

The bureau has previously operated on a smaller scale as an office under Benjamin. The upgrade comes as Obama has enjoyed foreign policy success due to the killing of Osama bin Laden, but also faced criticism over a quick withdrawal from Iraq, increasing aggression from Iran, and for negotiating with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. "I want to underscore we all know that there is no way to shoot our way out of this problem conclusively and forever," Benjamin said today, "and that’s why strengthening our engagement with others to support their civilian institutions so that they can actually hold that territory, police that territory, try people who want to carry out violent attacks either against people who live there or abroad, is an absolutely vital undertaking."

The bureau will focus on foreign terrorists, but their activities have some bearing on domestic security.  It collaborates with "the Department of Homeland Security to work jointly to stop terrorist travel, to improve aviation security," for instance, but will focus more on "the bilateral kind of diplomacy that we do with others on a number of different issues, whether it has to do with how we reduce the space that terrorist groups have to fundraise, [or] to operate," Benjamin explained.