A Global Report on Counterterrorism
By Daniel Benjamin, State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Video: http://www.brookings.edu/events/2012/12/18-global-counterterrorism#ref-id=20121218_benjamin (click-on video)
Reviewed by David T. Jones
Speaking before a friendly, “former home” Brookings Institution audience on 18 December, Daniel Benjamin, State Dept Coordinator for Counterterrorism, offered a review-the-bidding account of the past four years.
Unsurprisingly Benjamin presented a spectrum of successes: killing bin-Laden “was the most important milestone in the fight against al-Qaida;” killing 20 of the (always changing) top 30 al-Qaida leaders was another positive; beating down al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula is “work in progress, but the trend lines are positive;” and with coordinated Somali, African, and Western assistance, al-Shabaab was expelled from southern Somali cities; it is now fragmented by dissension and much weakened.
But the hydra always has more heads, and Benjamin noted emerging problems from al-Qaida metastatic offshoots in Mali, Libya, and Syria as well as Iranian/Hezbollah terrorist sponsorship.
Benjamin detailed the three pronged U.S. strategy: capacity building; strengthened counter violence capacity; and effective diplomacy. In his view, creating a Counterterrorism bureau at State was an invaluable administrative/strategic development.
Nevertheless, the problems are manifold. Capacity building is a painstaking process working to institute inter alia rule-of-law juridical structures that combat terrorism without heavy-handed security force repression. Patience and diplomatic sophistication in the effort will be necessary. Benjamin noted that in the last fiscal year, Anti-Terrorism Assistance trained more than 9,800 participants from more than 50 partner nations in a wide spectrum of capacity building efforts.
A particularly adroit tactic is epitomized by the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications housed at State. One element counters messages from al-Qaida-linked websites with banners and videos that mimic its messaging style; these have “clearly rattled” such groups, one of which expressed concern about what it called the new U.S. policy of "intellectual and ideological challenge to the mujahidin in the general and jihadist forums and the social media websites."
And it is cheaper than drones.